Bolstered by a prior-day futures gain of a little more than a quarter and gradually rising cooling load, cash prices moved higher at all points Thursday. But a sharp screen reversal and the typical decline of industrial load over a weekend may make it tough for the spot market to continue its climb Friday.

Increases ranged from a little less than a nickel and tended to be largest in the Rockies, where peak temperatures in the 80s are rivaling those in the eastern half of the South.

While still relatively mild as the official start of summer looms, the Northeast and Midwest are experiencing modest warming trends that will have highs approaching and occasionally surpassing 80 degrees Friday. However, The Weather Channel (TWC) predicted that storms and cold fronts will have thermometer levels in retreat again by the end of the weekend.

The South is continuing a pattern of highs reaching the 90s at its western end, but experiencing below-normal conditions in the 80s in most sections east of the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, cooling load remains strong in the West as the Rockies heat is being supplemented by even hotter temperatures throughout the Southwest and inland California. The Pacific Northwest has warmed up a bit since early this week but remains moderate to cool.

The Energy Information Administration fell slightly short of consensus expectations around 60 Bcf when it reported a 57 Bcf storage injection for the week ending June 13. Despite the nominal bullishness of the report, especially since it significantly enlarged the deficit to the five-year average (see related story), but Nymex traders pushed the July natural gas contract a whopping 34.9 cents lower anyway, largely in response to plunging crude oil numbers.

TWC noted that a weakening tropical wave was due to move into the Windward Islands at the eastern end of the Caribbean Sea Thursday night, adding that westerly shearing winds would create an unfavorable environment for storm development.

A Midcontinent source said activity in the Midcontinent/Midwest market has been a bit thinner than usual this week, as many gas traders in the region annually trek to Omaha, NE, for the final week of the College World Series.

While the lower half of the West continues to see high levels of cooling load, excess supply issues are starting to surface. El Paso said Thursday the probability of it declaring a Strained Operating Condition or Critical Operating Condition due to high linepack had been set to high.

Florida Gas Transmission kept an Overage Alert Day in effect, but although Florida Gas Zone 3 saw a big uptick of nearly 30 cents, the Florida citygate rose less than a dime.

The California coast is staying cool, a western trader said, but hot weather in the state’s interior drove large gains in the Golden State market. However, he expects modestly lower western prices Friday as a result of the Nymex dive Thursday and El Paso having high-linepack issues. He also noted that El Paso-San Juan quotes dropped about half a dollar from their starting point around $12, citing that as another indicator of likely softness Friday.

The trader said he has already done “a little bit” of early July business, trading Malin and the Southern California border flat to the NGI indexes. He expects to see July prices getting bid a bit higher next week.

The weather is fairly mild for now for a utility buyer in the South, which he said is allowing the company to maintain a steady pace on storage injections. The low level of current burns means he only needs to buy a little swing gas every now and then to supplement baseload and summer term supplies.

Temperatures will get warmer again next week, the buyer continued, but he noted that the Fourth of July weekend will be just about the lightest load period of the year for the utility.

He plans to buy about 20 MMcf/d of July baseload, and said nearly all of it will be targeted for storage.

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