Most of the cash market moved higher Thursday on the basis of some air conditioning load developing in the South, pockets of chilly weather continuing in northern market areas (primarily near the Canadian border) and the previous day’s 22.8-cent futures gain capping a three-day run of firmness by the May contract.

Although no points fell by more than a penny, a few instances of flat numbers prevented an across the board run of firmness. Gains ranging from 2 cents to nearly a quarter were in double digits in most instances.

The Energy Information Administration’s report of a 27 Bcf storage injection in the week ending April 11 was within an unusually wide range of prior expectations but several Bcf above consensus estimates on either side of 20 Bcf. The number was clearly bearish in comparison with a five-year average build of 7 Bcf for the week, but May futures lingered in positive territory for a while afterward before eventually falling to a 5-cent decline on the day.

The South began the week with virtually no cooling load as unseasonably chilly temperatures covered most of the region, but highs will be approaching 80 degrees (and occasionally exceeding that level) in much of the region. But it will be a brief burst of warmth, as The Weather Channel (TWC) predicted that a cold front accompanied by showers and thunderstorms will advance from the south-central states to the Southeast coast over the next three days.

Daniel Guertin of Lehman Brothers said a strong warming trend has developed across the eastern United States that should continue through Saturday. Highs Friday and Saturday “are forecast to approach 80 degrees in parts of the Mid-Atlantic,” he said. However, temperatures are expected to turn cooler in the East late this weekend and early next week, he added, but another period of much-above-normal temperatures should develop early in the six- to 10-day forecast.

In contrast to the unseasonably warm near-term pattern in the East, a very strong cooling trend will likely develop across far Western Canada and the northwestern United States, Guertin said. “A potent Arctic air mass is forecast to settle southward from northern Canada into Alberta by Sunday, resulting in unseasonably cold air for Calgary. Highs on Sunday and Monday should warm only into the lower 20s in Calgary, and nighttime lows are forecast to cool into the single digits and teens.”

It seems winter is being stubborn about ending in the West. A strong, windy cold front will sweep through the region this weekend, according to TWC. “By late Friday and Saturday, snow levels will drop to between 500 and 1,000 feet in western Washington and to 4,000 feet in Northern California. By Sunday, daytime temperatures will range from the upper teens to low 30s across most of Montana, some 20 to 30 degrees below average,” TWC said. It added that foot-plus accumulations of snow are possible across the Northwest from the Cascades to the Teton and Bitterroots mountain ranges to the high Plains of Montana.

A Texas-based marketer said he expects Thursday’s show of cash strength to be short-lived, with lower prices due Friday. He cited the weekend factor of industrial load decline, the Nymex weakness Thursday and generally mild weather forecasts for eastern market areas. He also noted that cash prices were moving lower Thursday morning, although they made a little run higher at 9:30 CDT when the storage report came out. But most trading of physical gas had been finished by then, he pointed out.

The marketer said someone was offering weekend gas into Panhandle Eastern on ICE at $9.66, more than 40 cents above Panhandle’s Thursday average. He said he didn’t expect any takers, suggesting that the offering party was just hoping a buyer might be foolish enough to hit the offer.

Other than the continuing Independence Hub outage in the Gulf of Mexico, the marketer was unaware of any supply issues. The lack of Independence gas is continuing to support Tennessee 500 Leg prices, because that’s where the Hub connects to the Gulf Coast transmission grid, he said. Tennessee’s 500 Leg average of about $9.29 Thursday was at a premium of more than 15 cents over the pipeline’s 800 Leg.

Even Florida, which has often remained significantly warmer in recent weeks while the rest of the Southeast got cooler, had very light cooling loads earlier this week, a utility buyer in the state said. There was almost no demand for peaking gas-fired generation until Thursday, he said. It’s getting a little warmer now, though, he added, and demand should pick up more Friday as the Sunshine State’s warming trend is forecast to continue into the weekend.

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