Speculators cut U.S. natgas net longs for second week in a row: CFTC

(Reuters) - U.S. natural gas speculators cut their net long positions for a second week in a row, betting prices will decline as supplies remain adequate with output near record highs and forecasts for near seasonal weather for the rest of the winter.

Speculators in four major New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) markets reduced their bullish bets by 73,759 contracts to 218,539 in the week to Feb. 13, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Friday.

That was the biggest weekly reduction by speculators since June 2017.

It compares with a five-year (2013-2017) average speculative net long position of 161,450. The biggest net long position was 456,475 in April 2013, while the biggest net short position was 166,165 in November 2015, according to Reuters data.

Gas futures on the NYMEX averaged $2.63 per million British thermal units during the five trading days ended Feb. 13 versus $2.84 during the five trading days ended Feb. 6.

Traders said there was more than enough gas available even after the cold blast at the start of the year, with production near record highs and forecasts for the weather to be mostly seasonal for the rest of the winter.

Production in the lower 48 U.S. states rose to an all-time high of 77.7 billion cubic feet per day in December and was moving back to that lofty level as the weather moderates, allowing wells to return to service after they froze during the brutally cold first week of the year. [NGA/]

The National Weather Service has projected temperatures would remain mostly seasonal for the rest of the winter.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Diane Craft and Chizu Nomiyama