U.S. natgas futures rise on forecast for cold, storm
NEW YORK Jan 2 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures were up on the first day of trading in 2014 on Thursday, reversing Tuesday's losses, on short-term forecasts for extreme cold temperatures combined with a snow storm headed to the U.S. Northeast from the Midwest.
Private forecaster MDA Weather Services called for cold, stormy weather to continue in the 1- to 5-day range, but moderated temperatures are expected in the 6- to 10-day range, followed by strong warmth in the East in the 11- to 15-day forecast.
Chilly early winter weather has helped to drive the front month up more than 25 percent since Nov. 1, with the contract posting a 2-1/2-year high of $4.532 on Dec. 23.
At 9:07 a.m. EST (1407 GMT), front-month February gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange, were up 7.7 cents, or 1.8 percent, at $4.306 per million British thermal units, after trading between $4.213 and $4.31.
Data released Friday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed that total gas inventories fell last week by 177 billion cubic feet to 3.071 trillion cubic feet. The report was delayed one day last week by the Christmas holiday.
Analysts polled by Reuters expected this week's storage report, coming on Friday, to reveal that withdrawal over the Christmas week fell between 103 and 162 billion cubic feet.
If drawdowns for the rest of the heating season match the five-year average pace, storage would end the winter below 1.5 tcf. That would be the lowest end-winter inventory since 2008 and could help prop up prices next year as utilities scramble to rebuild stocks for the next heating season.
Nuclear plant outages on Thursday totaled 1,600 megawatts, or about 2 percent of U.S. capacity. That was down from Tuesday's total of 1,750 MW, and well below the 8,400 MW out a year ago and the five-year average outage rate of 4,600 MW. (Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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