Arctic freeze pushes regional U.S. natgas prices to 10-year high

NEW YORK Mon Jan 6, 2014 10:41am EST

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NEW YORK Jan 6 (Reuters) - Natural gas prices for next-day delivery in the U.S. Northeast were set to hit their highest level in a decade on Monday, as an arctic freeze gripped the region.

The coldest weather in almost two decades descended on the eastern two-thirds of the country and was expected to continue until midweek, according to the National Weather Service, boosting heating demand in homes and businesses.

In the ICE cash market, prices for Tuesday delivery on the Transco pipeline at the New York citygate E-TSCO6NY-IDX traded as high as $55 on high demand in the Northeast. The average trade was $44.20, up $30.59 from Friday, the highest level since 2004, according to Reuters data.

At Henry Hub GT-HH-IDX, the benchmark supply point in Louisiana, rose 15 cents to $4.494, with early trade differentials at a 17-cent premium over NYMEX, strengthening over Friday's premium of less than 1 cent.

U.S. natural gas futures inched higher on Monday, but gains were tempered by longer-term forecasts for milder weather.

Private forecaster MDA Weather Services scaled back its previous forecast, which had called for a longer period of intense cold. MDA now predicts warmer-than-average temperatures in the six- to 10-day range.

Front-month February gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange, rose 3.8 cents to $4.342 per million British thermal units at 10:20 a.m. EST (1520 GMT), rebounding from slight losses earlier.

Last week's natural gas storage report revealed that stocks fell by 97 billion cubic feet during the week ending Dec. 27, according to data from the Energy Information Administration released Friday morning, smaller than the draw of 126 bcf forecast in a Reuters poll.

Heavier drawdowns are predicted for the two weeks ending on Jan. 10, Richard Hastings, a strategist at Global Hunter Securities, said in a report on Monday. Hastings put the drawdown at up to 430 bcf over the 14-day period.

Nuclear plant outages on Monday totaled 1,860 megawatts, or about 2 percent of U.S. capacity. That was up from Friday's total of 1,540 MW, but below the 9,700 MW out a year ago and the five-year average outage rate of 5,180 MW. (Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Edward McAllister and Jonathan Oatis)

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