Although a few points returned to the “plus” column Monday after Friday’s across the board declines, prices continued to drop in most of the cash market as typical shoulder-month weather and the previous Friday’s 31.6-cent plunge by the expiring April futures contract depressed physical quotes.

The return of industrial load from the weekend had little effect in stemming overall declines that ranged from 2-3 cents to about a quarter. A few points, mostly in the Midcontinent and Rockies, were flat to about a nickel higher.

There was still some heating load in the Tuesday forecast from lows in the teens and 20s in Alberta and the Rockies to the 30s in the Midwest, but otherwise little gas was wanted to cope with cold weather. New York City was expected to see a relatively balmy end-of-March high around 60, and although the eastern two-thirds of the South and the Midcontinent were due to chill out a bit with mercury readings as low as the high 30s and 40s, such conditions did little to raise gas demand when daily highs are still reaching the 60s.

Tuesday predictions in the 70s at the western end of the South meant no heating load at all, but precious little air conditioning-related demand to replace it. Predictions of lows in the upper 30s in the Pacific Northwest added a little bit of load to the sub-freezing Rockies and Western Canada forecasts, but otherwise the West is still seeing moderate early spring weather.

The cash market will have scant prior-day screen support after May futures spent their inaugural prompt-month day rising by only two-tenths of a penny (see related story).

El Paso shifted from warning shippers of a “high draft condition” on Sunday to a “moderate pack condition” Monday, indicating that receipts had picked up significantly. Transportation constraints remained minimal for the most part.

A western trader said overall regional temperatures had gone “from warm, warm, warm to not so much” warm over the weekend, but any pickup in heating load was almost indistinguishable. Most areas of the U.S. are not seeing much gas demand for either heating or cooling these days, he noted. Although most bidweek trading had been completed Friday, April baseload prices continued to drop, he said. While the PG&E citygate had traded in the mid to high $3.80s last week, he reported that delivered gas could be procured for about $3.60 Monday.

The number of drilling rigs seeking natural gas in the U.S. dropped by another 47 to 810 during the week ending March 27, according to the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count ( Three rigs quit the search in the Gulf of Mexico and 44 were deactivated onshore, Baker Hughes said. Baker Hughes’ latest tally is 16% less than a month ago and down 44% from the year-earlier level.

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