* Above-normal temperatures on tap for consuming regions
* Prices break below key technical support levels
* Coming Up: Baker Hughes drilling rig data later Friday
By Eileen Houlihan
NEW YORK, Nov 1 U.S. natural gas futures slid
nearly 2 percent early on Friday, pressured for a fifth straight
session by forecasts for above-normal temperatures that should
curb heating loads in consuming regions of the nation.
In addition, technical traders noted the nearby contract
slid below both the 100-day and 200-day moving averages, another
continued bearish sign.
And with nuclear power plant outages well below normal and a
quiet tropical front, most traders expected further losses until
sustained cold weather arrives.
At 9:20 a.m. EDT (1320 GMT), front-month December natural
gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were at
$3.525 per million British thermal units, down 5.6 cents, or
nearly 2 percent.
The nearby contract slid to $3.48 on Tuesday, its lowest
mark since late September. It traded as high as $3.869 two weeks
ago, the highest price for a front-month contract since late
The latest National Weather Service six- to 10-day outlook
issued on Thursday called for above-normal temperatures for
about the eastern third of the nation, with below-normal
readings for most of the remainder of the country.
Thursday's gas storage report from the U.S. Energy
Information Administration showed total domestic inventories
rose last week by 38 billion cubic feet, slightly above Reuters
poll estimates for a 36 bcf gain, but well below the year-ago
build of 66 bcf and the five-year average gain of 57 bcf for
Total stocks stand at 3.779 trillion cubic feet, 3.1 percent
below last year's level and 1.6 percent above the five-year
Early injection estimates for next week's EIA report range
from 33 bcf to 45 bcf versus a 27 bcf build during the same
year-ago week and the five-year average increase of 36 bcf for
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 12,800 megawatts, or 13 percent of U.S. capacity, was
offline on Friday, down from 13,400 MW out on Thursday, 30,700
MW out a year ago and a five-year average outage rate of 21,000
Traders were waiting for the next Baker Hughes gas
drilling rig report to be released later Friday. The gas rig
count has increased in 11 of the last 18 weeks, rising last week
to 376, well above the 18-year low of 349 set in June.
(Editing by Chris Reese)