November 1, 2013 / 1:41 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. natgas futures slip for fifth straight day on mild weather

* 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 (Reuters) - 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 June.

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 that week.

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 average level.

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 that week.

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 MW.

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

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