UPDATE 1-Speculators top record net long in natgas -CFTC

Fri Apr 5, 2013 4:54pm EDT

By Jeanine Prezioso

April 5 (Reuters) - Money managers, including hedge funds and commodity trading advisers, in the week to April 2 raised their net long position in natural gas futures, options and swaps for the seventh week in a row, breaking the prior week's record for largest net long position.

The group was holding the largest net long position since the IntercontinentalExchange began reporting trader positions to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in January 2010, according to Reuters data.

The investors added 6,199 contracts in NYMEX natural gas futures and options, NYMEX Henry Hub Swaps, NYMEX Henry Hub Penultimate Swaps, and ICE Henry Hub Swaps, increasing their net long position to 393,884, according to data from the CFTC released on Friday.

Renewed investor interest in natural gas has come as the balance between supply and demand has tightened.

Gas supplies were drawn down to meet late-winter heating demand amid colder-than-normal weather last month.

U.S. government data released on Thursday showed that stocks of the fuel were 31 percent below last year's levels and had fallen below the five-year average for the first time in 19 months.

Open interest, which reflects the number of contracts that have changed hands but have not settled between buyers and sellers, in natural gas futures has consistently broken records.

On Thursday, CME Group's New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) reported that open interest in NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures hit a record on April 2 at 1.459 million and then had broken it again the following day reaching 1.462 million, marking the 13th consecutive open interest record.

Open interest in futures, options and swaps in the week to April 2, rose by 40,923 to 3.898 million.

NYMEX natural gas futures prices were virtually unchanged between reporting periods at $3.969 per million British thermal units last Tuesday.

NYMEX May gas futures prices on Friday ended 4.5 percent or 17.8 cents higher at $4.125 per mmBtu, the highest settlement price since August 2011.

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