U.S. natgas futures edge lower on continued mild weather
* Seasonal or below-seasonal temperatures for Northeast, Midwest * Nuclear plant outages remain well below normal * Tropical Depression near Cape Verde Islands - National Hurricane Center * Coming Up: EIA natgas storage data on Thursday By Eileen Houlihan NEW YORK, July 24 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures edged lower early on Wednesday, as continued mild weather in consuming regions of the nation this week and next were seen curbing power demand. "Overall the latest forecasts suggest that the call on natural gas for weather-related demand for power generation is likely to be below normal for this time of the year," said Energy Management Institute partner, Dominick Chirichella. In addition, below-average nuclear power plant outages were adding more weight to the downside. But traders noted the newly formed tropical depression near the Cape Verde Islands was expected to move into the Caribbean early next week. It was still too early to gauge whether the system would move into the Gulf of Mexico and disrupt offshore energy production. As of 8:34 a.m. EDT (1234 GMT), front-month August natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were at $3.708 per million British thermal units, down 3.5 cents, or near 1 percent. The contract rose nearly 2 percent on Tuesday, remaining below the four-week high of $3.835 hit late last week, after sliding to a nearly four-month low of $3.526 in late June. Forecaster MDA Weather Services called for widespread below normal temperatures in the Midwest in its one- to five-day forecast, with mostly seasonal readings in the East in the six- to 10-day period. Last week's gas storage report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed total domestic inventories rose in the prior week by 58 billion cubic feet to 2.745 trillion cubic feet, about 13 percent below last year's record-high level but only 1 percent below the five-year average. Early injection estimates for Thursday's EIA report range from 33 bcf to 60 bcf, compared with a 26 bcf build in the same week last year and a five-year average increase for that week of 53 bcf. Nuclear plant outages on Wednesday totaled 2,100 megawatts, or just 2 percent of U.S. capacity, down from 2,500 MW out on Tuesday, 9,400 MW out a year ago and a five-year average outage rate of about 5,000 MW. (Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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