Unlike a week earlier, the slump in gas demand that almostalways accompanies a weekend had its usual negative effect on cashprices Friday. Declines ranged from only 3-4 cents at Midwest andNortheast citygates to as much as a dime or so at Southwest andRockies points, where most of the maintenance outages at processingplants and compressor stations had ended by Friday. Most otherpoints registered drops of about a nickel.

Other than lower weekend load, about the only influence cash hadwas initial softness from an eventually static futures screen, onesource said.

The Opal Hub supply curtailment due to plant maintenance wasscheduled to remain about 4% through Saturday (May 22), a tradersaid, but that level was “negligible” compared to the shortfallsearlier in the week. Kern River and Northwest, the main takeawaypipes at Opal, saw some of Friday’s biggest falls of a dime ormore.

In swing deals done through Tuesday because of today’s VictoriaDay holiday in Canada, a Calgary source quoted Sumas in the mid$1.90s Friday, around the bottom of Thursday’s wide range. He washearing Sumas fixed-price offers for June around $1.88.

The head of spot trading for a large aggregator wasn’t surprisedby how firmly cash prices held up last week. After all, theformerly much-ballyhooed storage surplus is dwindling rapidly, shesaid, and the market “seems to have found a good level people arecomfortable with.” She definitely doesn’t want her company to goshort during the June bidweek, recalling how that strategy hasbackfired for some traders this spring. Another reason to favor along supply position, she feels, is that there “could be a seriousdeliverability problem developing from last year’s drillingdownturn. I think people will start noticing that more and more infuture months.” She doesn’t expect Gulf Coast Gulf prices to getbelow the low $2.10s next week and thinks that could mark the lowpricing point of 1999, barring any “big surprises.”

Commonwealth Edison, the Chicago-area electric utility, said thereturn to service Thursday of Braidwood Station’s Unit 2 followinga record-setting refueling outage marked the first time sinceAugust 1993 that all available ComEd nuclear units were running atthe same time. The Braidwood unit’s return in just 26 days set anew mark for the shortest refueling outage at any of ComEd’snuclear plants, shaving just over three hours off the record set byDresden Station in February.

It was a quiet day market again Friday, said a Northeast buyerto whom it seemed that “everybody is lazily gearing up forbidweek.” June basis offers looked relatively cheap to her, citingoffers at plus 21-22 for Transco Zone 6-New York City and plus 21for Texas Eastern M-3. Previously basis had been running 3-4 centshigher, she said. A marketer was hearing basis of minus 5.5 forNorAm-east and flat for MRT mainline.

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