The softening trend of cash prices appeared to have slowed to a near-standstill Tuesday as most losses were in single digits that day and were nearly offset by flat to higher locations. However, larger drops extended to a majority of points on the following day, and the downhill momentum got even steeper Thursday as mostly large declines (all in double digits) swept through the entire market.

Losses ranging from a little more than a dime to about half a dollar were fairly evenly distributed among market regions, although most of the smallest ones were concentrated in the Rockies, where lows in the 20s were predicted for Friday.

Meager screen support from a 3.6-cent rise by December futures Wednesday did essentially nothing to support the cash market Thursday, and there will be negative guidance for Friday’s physical market after the December contract fell 13.3 cents Thursday (see related story).

The recovery of production losses caused by Tropical Storm Ida’s approach to the Mobile Bay area of coastal Alabama was nearing completion Thursday, as the Minerals Management Service (MMS) said it was issuing its final Ida-related shut-in report. Based on reports received from 18 companies by 11:30 CST, only 186 MMcf/d, or about 2.6% of total Gulf of Mexico (GOM) gas output, remained offline Thursday, MMS said, compared to reductions of nearly 2 Bcf/d each on Monday and Tuesday. Only one platform remained evacuated, according to MMS, while all GOM mobile drilling rigs had been restaffed.

The National Hurricane Center’s map of tropical Atlantic activity was blank again Thursday, although what was left of former Hurricane Ida was helping to stir up heavy rains and strong wind from central North Carolina to the coast, The Weather Channel said.

Overall weather forecasts indicated that mildness will continue to reign in most of the U.S., while most of the coldest conditions will remain in the Rockies, Western Canada and parts of New England.

Northern Natural Gas indicated the current mildness of Upper Northwest temperatures in a bulletin board posting saying that while its normal system weighted temperature at this time of year is 36 degrees, it was projecting averages of 46, 48 and 46 for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, respectively. However, Northern expected conditions to be near average again with a reading around 40 Sunday.

After reporting high linepack for the first three days of the week, El Paso said a return to normal linepack had spurred it to set the probability of declaring a Strained Operating Condition to low Thursday.

A Texas-based marketer said it was natural to expect softer prices again Friday, citing the factor of weekend drops in industrial demand, little heating load to speak of and the renewal of futures softness. For a rally to occur, he said, the market must wait for substantive cold weather because nobody expects anything more from the Atlantic hurricane season after Ida. Other than the pervading softness, he said, it’s a “pretty normal situation” in the market.

A western trader said regional weather was pretty mild Thursday and into the foreseeable future, with normally hot desert Southwest temperatures going from the mid 80s to about the 70 area lately. Gas demand will stay fairly light in the Southwest through November, but he expects more to come on in December and January. There are still several nuke outages in the West, he said, but they don’t matter than much in an overall low-demand period for gas.

Long contract commitments and credit problems keep a lot of “us small producers” from buying Rockies Express capacity, a Rockies producer said. The pipeline just began full-system service through Clarington, OH, Thursday. It can often take a few days for basis impacts to develop from such growth of takeaway capacity, he said, but it may occur earlier this time. He noted that the basis differential of CIG from Henry Hub was about 62 cents last Friday but had dwindled to about 13 cents Thursday.

“We can make it on $3 gas” (most Rockies points were in the $3.10-20 range Thursday), the producer said, but other companies in the region can’t.

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