U.S. natgas futures rise for third straight session

Wed May 15, 2013 9:25am EDT
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* Front month still well below recent 21-month high
    * Weather forecasts mixed throughout the nation
    * Nuclear power plant outages remain above normal
    * Coming Up: EIA natgas storage data on Thursday

    By Eileen Houlihan
    NEW YORK, May 15 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures rose
about 1 percent early on Wednesday, extending gains for a third
straight session after a cool start to the week in the Northeast
was expected to further slow inventory builds.
    Above-average nuclear power plant outages also helped to
firm near-term demand, traders said.
    A long, cold winter put a huge dent in inventories and a
cool spring led to a slow start to the injection season, but
forecasts for milder weather later this month should finally
curb any lingering heating loads before heavy cooling demand
kicks in.
    As of 9:15 a.m. EDT (1315 GMT), front-month June natural gas
futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were at
$4.063 per million British thermal units, up 3.9 cents, or just
under 1 percent.
    The contract hit a one-month low of $3.883 last week after
climbing to a 21-month high of $4.444 on May 1.
    The latest National Weather Service six to 10-day forecast
issued on Tuesday called for above-normal temperatures in the
Northeast and Southwest and below-normal readings along the Gulf
Coast and in the Northwest and other northern-tier states.
    Nuclear plant outages totaled 19,500 megawatts, or 19
percent of U.S. capacity, down from 20,100 MW out on Tuesday,
but up from 16,200 MW out a year ago and a five-year average
outage rate of 19,100 MW. 
    Early injection estimates for Thursday's EIA gas storage
report range from 90 bcf to 106 bcf, versus a 56-bcf build in
the same week last year and a five-year average rise for that
week of 83 bcf.