| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Jan 9 U.S. natural gas futures fell on
Thursday as expectations for a strong storage report were
countered by a break in the week's record cold snap and
forecasts for warmer weather.
The arctic freeze that descended on the eastern two-thirds
of the country is expected to lift in the second half of the
week, according to the National Weather Service.
In a 1- to 5-day forecast, private forecaster MDA predicted
a surge of warmer weather, particularly in the Midwest and East,
where temperatures were the coldest in over two decades earlier
in the week.
Drawdowns in natural gas storage for the week ending Jan. 3
will be released Thursday at 10:30 a.m. (1530 GMT) by the U.S.
Energy Information Administration.
Analysts polled by Reuters on average predicted a drawdown
of 157 billion cubic feet, much higher than a drawdown of 97 bcf
reported the week prior.
Next week's report, which will show the drawdown during this
week's record cold, will reflect the all-time high demand.
Demand for natural gas hit a record high of 119 billion
cubic feet on Monday, eclipsing the previous record set in
January 2009, according to Thomson Reuters Analytics.
Front-month February gas futures on the New York Mercantile
Exchange were down 6.4 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $4.152
per million British thermal units at 9:31 a.m. EST (1431 GMT).
In the ICE cash market, at Henry Hub GT-HH-IDX, the
benchmark supply point in Louisiana, gas for Friday delivery
fell 21 cents to $4.14. Early trade differentials were at a 1
cent premium over NYMEX, weakening from Wednesday's premium of
13 cents as warmer temperatures alleviated spot demand.
Gas on the Transco pipeline at the New York citygate
E-TSCO6NY-IDX fell $5.33 to $4.219 as the region's price
volatility tempered after its cold snap.
Nuclear plant outages on Thursday totaled 2,800 megawatts,
or about 3 percent of U.S. capacity. That was down from
Wednesday's total of 4,250 MW, and below the 8,440 MW out a year
ago and the five-year average outage rate of 5,780 MW.
(Editing by Sophie Hares)