NEW YORK, March 18 (Reuters) - Natural gas futures open interest on the New York Mercantile Exchange climbed to a record high on Friday, according to final data posted on the CME Group website on Monday.
Futures open interest (OI), or the number of longs or shorts outstanding, climbed 10,176 contracts on Friday to a record high 1,316,945, easily eclipsing the previous high of 1,308,114 hit on April 20, 2012.
A fairly chilly winter has whittled down record high inventories at the start of the heating season and helped drive NYMEX front-month gas futures prices up about 25 percent over the last month, notching a 17-month high of $3.965 per million British thermal units on Monday.
The move up has been accompanied by a steady climb in futures-only OI, which has gained nearly 125,000 lots, or 10 percent, during the period as sentiment turned more bullish and new length piled in.
Data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commision on Friday showed that money managers, including hedge funds and commodity trading advisors, had built up their largest net-long position in natural gas futures, options and swaps in at least three years.
That data includes natural gas swaps held on the IntercontinentalExchange, which did not start reporting gas trader position data to the CFTC until January 2010, according to Reuters data.