UPDATE 3-Short cover props up U.S. natgas futures, 1st gain in 4 sessions

Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:49pm EDT
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* Milder temperatures later in the month weigh on prices

* Cold weather expected next week limits downside

* EIA to release two weeks of gas inventory data next week

By Joe Silha

NEW YORK, Oct 18 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures ended slightly higher on Friday after some early selling, driven by short covering after three straight losing sessions and ahead of colder weather next week that should increase gas used for heating.

The front contract, which posted a 7.7 percent gain last week in its biggest one-week run up in nearly a year, ended the week down 0.3 percent, lightly pressured by profit taking after recent gains and milder weather this week that curbed demand.

"We pulled back over the last couple of days, so we probably got some short covering ahead of the weekend. The weather forecasts for next week also look bullish and we've got two gas storage reports next week," said Steve Mosley at The SMC Report.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration did not release its weekly natural gas storage report on Thursday due to the government shutdown, which ended on Wednesday. The agency plans to release inventory data for the weeks ended Oct. 11 and Oct. 18 on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

Front-month gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange ended up 0.7 cents at $3.764 per million British thermal units, after trading between $3.685 and $3.785. The nearby contract hit a four-month high of $3.869 Wednesday.   Continued...