U.S. natgas futures slide 2 pct ahead of weekly EIA storage data
* Front month remains above recent four-month spot low * Above-normal temperatures on tap for both coasts * Nuclear plant outages back above average * Coming up: EIA natgas storage data at 12:00 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT By Eileen Houlihan NEW YORK, July 3 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures slid about 2 percent early Wednesday ahead of weekly government storage data expected to show a near average build to inventories despite warmer weather forecasts. In addition, above-normal nuclear plant outages were expected to keep near-term demand firm, but most traders expect any upside to be limited by milder weather forecasts for the mid-Continent that should curb cooling demand. Most traders and analysts expect weekly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to show a build of about 71 billion cubic feet when it is released at 12:00 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT), a Reuters poll showed. Stocks rose 41 bcf during the same week last year, and on average over the past five years have gained 71 bcf that week. This week's EIA storage report will be released one day earlier than usual due to the July 4 U.S. Independence Day holiday on Thursday. As of 9:23 a.m. EDT (1323 GMT), front-month August natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were at $3.575 per million British thermal units, down 7.9 cents, or just over 2 percent. The contract rose more than 2 percent on Tuesday, a second straight day of gains, after sliding to a near four-month low of $3.526 on Friday. The National Weather Service six to 10-day forecast issued Tuesday called for above-normal temperatures for both coasts and normal or below-normal readings in the middle of the nation. Last week's EIA gas storage report showed total domestic inventories rose last week by 95 bcf to 2.533 trillion cubic feet. Stocks are more than 17 percent below last year's record high level, but only 1 percent below the five-year average level. Nuclear plant outages totaled 5,800 megawatts, or 6 percent of U.S. capacity, down from 8,600 MW out a year ago, but up from 5,700 MW out on Tuesday and a five-year average outage rate of 5,000 MW.
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