U.S. natgas futures hover below six-month high ahead of EIA data
* Prices hover near six-month high under $4/mmBtu
* EIA storage report due out at 10:30 EST
* Analysts predict 138 bcf withdrawn
* Cold weather remains on tap in long-term outlooks
By Julia Edwards
NEW YORK, Dec 5 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures were little changed early Thursday ahead of the weekly storage report by the Energy Information Administration.
Analysts are expecting an above average withdrawal of around 138 billion cubic feet, well above the 62 bcf draw reported the same week a year ago, according to a Reuters poll.
The drawdown is likely due to colder-than-average temperatures across most of the country, despite the holiday week.
Severe cold weather was forecast across most of the country - except the East Coast - for the next five days, with colder- than-average temperatures stretching over the next 10 days, according to private forecaster MDA Weather Services. MDA forecasts milder temperatures in the 11- to 15-day period.
The National Weather Service's latest six- to 10-day outlook issued on Wednesday also expects below or much-below normal temperatures for nearly the entire nation, with some above-normal readings only in Florida, trending milder in the eight- to 14-day range.
At 9:29 a.m. EST (1429 GMT), front-month January natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were at $3.987 per million British thermal units, up 2.7 cents, after trading between $3.951 and $3.997.
The nearby contract traded as high as $4.017 on Tuesday, the highest mark for a front month and its first time above $4 since early June.
Last week's gas storage report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed total domestic inventories fell in the prior week by 13 bcf to 3.776 trillion cubic feet, 2.6 percent below last year's levels and less than 1 percent above the five-year average.
Data from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission showed about 8,800 megawatts, or 9 percent of U.S. capacity, was offline on Thursday, unchanged from Wednesday and down from 13,000 MW out a year ago and a five-year average outage rate of 9,600 MW. (Editing by Maureen Bavdek)
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