Already riding the crest of a wave of heating load to higher prices, the cash market used an extra shove from Monday’s 36.6-cent screen spike to record even bigger gains in most cases Tuesday than it started the week with.

All points saw double-digit increases, and the West made it two days in a row as the price-leading region. Overall, the advances ranged from about a quarter to half a dollar.

Cold weather is due to continue Wednesday in the Northeast, Midwest and much of the northern West and Canada. And the South, which had been relatively mild for the most part through Monday, was starting to feel some extra chill itself Tuesday. A Dallas-area source reported afternoon temperatures in the 40s amid wet weather that included a smattering of sleet, so the rise in intrastate Texas heating demand undoubtedly contributed to price strength at Waha and in the Southwest basins. Those points were up about 35-50 cents.

In addition, snow was likely over most of the Appalachians, and hail possibly would mix with rain in the lower elevations of the western Carolinas and northern North Carolina, according to The Weather Channel.

A marketer confessed to not being “a huge believer in this bull market, but then I’m in the minority.” He felt the current rally is a little bit suspect, but said there’s no denying it has been “ferocious and caught a few people short.” He noted that the cash gas market has relied a lot on near-record crude oil prices to keep a floor under it.

Physical gas will continue to get some next-day screen support Wednesday, but not nearly as much as on Tuesday. April natural gas futures followed up the Monday spike with a fair-to-middling advance of 4.1 cents Tuesday after meandering on both sides of flat for much of the day. Crude oil for April delivery was negative during the morning but eventually eked out a dime gain that put it a nickel over the psychologically important $55/bbl level.

A Northeast trader said he thinks a gas futures drop of 40-50 cents back to $6.75 or so would be healthy development for the market in general. “We’re rapidly approaching shoulder season conditions” and fundamentals should play a bigger role soon than they have in recent months, he noted. Thursday probably should have the week’s strongest load profile in the Northeast, he said, but then temperatures start rising into the weekend, so market softness could come as early as Thursday’s trading for Friday flows.

Things have been quiet for a while in the Florida market, said a utility buyer in the state. “We’re just chugging along” with no problems, buying a little gas here and a little there, she added.

Despite the West seeing the week’s biggest price increases so far, barely a week after thanking customers for their cooperation in restoring its system to normal linepack levels (see Daily GPI, March 8), Kern River was reporting high linepack in all four segments again Tuesday. And Westcoast continues to post an imbalance tolerance range aimed at encouraging drafting of its system.

Analyst Thomas Driscoll of Lehman Brothers predicted a storage withdrawal of 90 Bcf to be reported for the week ending March 11. Generally, prior estimations for the Energy Information Administration’s Thursday morning report are centered on the range of 90-110 Bcf.

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