U.S. natgas futures edge lower after Monday's big gains
* Front month remains just under recent 21-month chart high * Weather outlooks mixed for early, mid-May * Nuclear power plant outages back above normal By Eileen Houlihan NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures edged lower early on Monday, probably in some profit-taking after a 4 percent jump on Monday. But traders said continued below-normal temperatures in some consuming regions, expectations for another light weekly inventory build, and nuclear plant outages that rose back above normal were all likely to limit losses. Chilly weather put a huge dent in inventories, and lingering cold led to a slow start to the injection season. Still, traders expect the onset of milder spring weather in the coming days and weeks to finally curb any late-season heating demand before heavy cooling loads kick in. As of 9:14 a.m. EDT (1314 GMT), front-month June natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were at $4.372 per million British thermal units, down 2 cents, or less than 1 percent. The contract rose as high as $4.395 on Monday, just below the recent 21-month spot high of $4.429. The latest National Weather Service's six-to-10-day forecast issued on Monday called for above-normal temperatures for about the western third of the nation and in most of the Northeast, with mostly below-normal readings elsewhere across the Southeast, Texas and much of the midcontinent. Nuclear outages totaled 24,800 megawatts, or 25 percent of U.S. capacity, up from 21,800 MW out a year ago and a five-year average outage rate of 23,800 MW. ANOTHER LIGHT INVENTORY BUILD Last week's gas storage report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed domestic inventories rose the prior week by 30 billion cubic feet, below Reuters poll estimates for a 32 bcf build, the year-ago gain of 43 bcf and the five-year average build of 50 bcf for that week. Stocks, at 1.734 trillion cubic feet, are nearly 32 percent below last year and more than 5 percent below the five-year average. Early injection estimates for this week's report range from 24 bcf to 40 bcf, versus a 31-bcf build during the same week last year and a five-year average rise of 67 bcf for that week. Baker Hughes drilling rig data released on Friday showed the gas-directed rig count slid 13 to a 14-year low of 366.
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