Just when it had seemed the whole market was finally in agreement on further severe cold through the rest of January and the corollary that a couple of mostly bullish weeks were upcoming, prices got thrown for a loop again. Doubts were arising again about how severely cold it will be in the closing weeks of the month. Whereas flat to much higher numbers had reigned throughout the market Wednesday, only a few locations that were flat to up nearly 20 cents avoided a near-total turnaround into negative territory Thursday.

Although the National Weather Service’s six- to 10-day projection for Jan. 19-23 still showed blue in most of the eastern half of the U.S., its eight- to 14-day forecast for Jan. 21-27 showed the below-normal area having receded into the southeastern quadrant of the nation, with no dark blue patches in sight.

The Northeast had generally kept recording spikes while most points stayed soft in the last two frigid weeks. Thus it seemed somewhat appropriate that Northeast citygates were at the forefront of Thursday’s slide of prices ranging from 2-3 cents to a little more than $8. Although the Northeast realized several three-digit plunges, the Florida citygate took the big dive of about $8.10 despite Florida Gas Transmission tightening the imbalance tolerance on an Overage Alert Day from 15% to 10%.

The Energy Information Administration said 138 Bcf was drawn from storage during the week ending Jan. 7, falling short of consensus expectations in the low to mid 140s Bcf but greatly exceeding the five-year average (see related story). February futures responded with a loss of 12.4 cents.

Residents of the East Coast are now waiting for the big thaw following record-setting blizzard levels in New England, but they have a fairly lengthy wait in store, according to The Weather Channel (TWC). Meanwhile, storms continue to ravage the Pacific Northwest, although as a whole the West is mostly experiencing moderate warming.

Just as Southern is on the verge of ending a cold-weather Type 6 OFO, Northern Natural Gas declared a System Overrun Limitation in all market zones over four days — Saturday through Tuesday.

A utility buyer in the South said his customers’ usage tends to go up much faster than expected when weather is going from warm to significantly colder conditions. He thought the below-expectations storage pull had something to do with Thursday’s bearish prices. Despite extreme weather causing some strains this week, the company is still right about where it wants to be on storage inventory and will pick up a little baseload gas for February just in case, he said.

A western trader said it appeared that most of the region’s weather in the past week was the coldest of the season so far, and it will be an above-normal coming week. In fact, unless any further winter storms now moving into Pacific Northwest keep arriving, most western prices probably will see softer prices in the next couple of weeks, he said.

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