* Front month remains just under recent 21-month chart high
* Weather outlooks mixed for early, mid-May
* Nuclear power plant outages back above normal
By Eileen Houlihan
NEW YORK, April 30 U.S. natural gas futures
edged lower early on Monday, probably in some profit-taking
after a 4 percent jump on Monday.
But traders said continued below-normal temperatures in some
consuming regions, expectations for another light weekly
inventory build, and nuclear plant outages that rose back above
normal were all likely to limit losses.
Chilly weather put a huge dent in inventories, and lingering
cold led to a slow start to the injection season.
Still, traders expect the onset of milder spring weather in
the coming days and weeks to finally curb any late-season
heating demand before heavy cooling loads kick in.
As of 9:14 a.m. EDT (1314 GMT), front-month June natural gas
futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were at
$4.372 per million British thermal units, down 2 cents, or less
than 1 percent.
The contract rose as high as $4.395 on Monday, just below
the recent 21-month spot high of $4.429.
The latest National Weather Service's six-to-10-day forecast
issued on Monday called for above-normal temperatures for about
the western third of the nation and in most of the Northeast,
with mostly below-normal readings elsewhere across the
Southeast, Texas and much of the midcontinent.
Nuclear outages totaled 24,800 megawatts, or 25 percent of
U.S. capacity, up from 21,800 MW out a year ago and a five-year
average outage rate of 23,800 MW.
ANOTHER LIGHT INVENTORY BUILD
Last week's gas storage report from the U.S. Energy
Information Administration showed domestic inventories rose the
prior week by 30 billion cubic feet, below Reuters poll
estimates for a 32 bcf build, the year-ago gain of 43 bcf and
the five-year average build of 50 bcf for that week.
Stocks, at 1.734 trillion cubic feet, are nearly 32 percent
below last year and more than 5 percent below the five-year
Early injection estimates for this week's report range from
24 bcf to 40 bcf, versus a 31-bcf build during the same week
last year and a five-year average rise of 67 bcf for that week.
Baker Hughes drilling rig data released on Friday
showed the gas-directed rig count slid 13 to a 14-year low of