Cold forecasts prop up U.S. natgas futures for fourth day
NEW YORK, Nov 8 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures edged higher for a fourth straight day on Friday, backed by chilly weather forecasts for the next 10 days that should force more homeowners and businesses to turn up their heaters. Front-month futures, which posted a contract low and 2-1/2 month low of $3.379 on Tuesday, are up 2.8 percent in the last four sessions and about 0.8 percent so far this week. But many traders remained skeptical of the upside despite the near-term chill, with stockpiles comfortable, production flowing at a record high pace and another warm-up expected late next week, particularly for the Midwest. At 9:10 a.m. EST (1410 GMT), front-month gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were up 2.2 cents at $3.541 per million British thermal units, after trading between $3.51 and $3.579. Traders mostly shrugged off Thursday's 35 million cubic feet weekly inventory build, noting it matched the Reuters poll estimate and came in close to the five-year average for that week. Most viewed the injection as neutral for prices. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that total gas inventories rose last week to 3.814 trillion cubic feet, 2.9 percent below last year's record highs at that time but 1.5 percent above the five-year average. Early injection estimates for next week's storage report range from 16 bcf to 26 bcf. That would compare to the 12 bcf draw seen during the same year-ago week and the five-year average increase of 19 bcf for that week. Traders were waiting for the next Baker Hughes drilling rig report on Friday. The gas rig count has risen in 11 of the last 19 weeks, stirring talk that new pipelines and processing plants may be encouraging producers to pump more gas into an already well-supplied market. The EIA still expects U.S. gas production in 2013 to hit a record high for the third straight year. Nuclear plant outages on Friday totaled 11,281 megawatts, or about 12 percent of U.S. capacity. That was down from Thursday's total of 12,043 MW and well below the 26,958 MW out one year ago and the five-year average outage rate of 20,871 MW.
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