U.S. natgas futures edge higher ahead of weekly EIA storage data
* Above-normal temperatures on tap for consuming regions
* Prices hover near key technical levels
* Coming Up: EIA natgas storage data at 10:30 a.m. EDT
By Eileen Houlihan
NEW YORK, Oct 31 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures edged higher early on Thursday, lifted by expectations for a light weekly inventory build despite continued forecasts for above-normal temperatures that should curb heating loads in consuming regions of the nation.
Technical traders noted the nearby contract remained between the 100-day moving average and the 200-day moving average, after the December contract bounced off November's expiration near a five-week spot chart low on Tuesday.
Traders and analysts polled by Reuters expect weekly inventory data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to show a build of about 36 billion cubic feet when it is released at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT).
Stocks gained 66 bcf in the same year-ago week, and on average over the past five years have gained 57 bcf for that week.
At 9:11 a.m. EDT (1311 GMT), front-month December natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were at $3.633 per million British thermal units, up 1.3 cents, or less than 1 percent.
The November contract slid to $3.48 on Tuesday, the lowest mark for a nearby contract since late September.
It traded as high as $3.869 two weeks ago, the highest price for a front-month contract since late June.
The latest National Weather Service six- to 10-day outlook issued on Wednesday again called for above-normal temperatures for about the eastern half of the nation and across most of Texas, with below-normal readings for most of the western half of the country.
Last week's EIA gas storage report showed total domestic inventories rose the prior week by 87 bcf to 3.741 trillion cubic feet.
Stocks stand just over 2 percent below last year's level and just over 2 percent above the five-year average level.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said tropical cyclone formation was not expected for the next five days. The Atlantic hurricane season runs through Nov. 30.
Data from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission showed about 13,400 megawatts, or 14 percent of U.S. capacity, was offline on Thursday, up from 13,000 MW out on Wednesday, but down from 30,700 MW out a year ago and a five-year average outage rate of 21,000 MW. (Editing by Maureen Bavdek)
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