June 4, 2013 / 1:32 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. natgas futures seesaw early, hover near $4/mmBtu

* Front month remains well below recent 21-month high
    * Weather forecasts mixed for early to mid-June
    * Nuclear power plant outages remain above normal
    * Coming Up: EIA natgas storage data on Thursday

    By Eileen Houlihan
    NEW YORK, June 4 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures
seesawed on either side of unchanged territory early Tuesday,
with the front month contract again hovering near $4 per million
British thermal units, a key psychological level.
    With weather forecasts mixed for the next two weeks and
nuclear power plant outages only slightly above normal, most
traders expect the bias to remain to the downside.
    As of 9:24 a.m. EDT (1324 GMT), front-month July natural gas
futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were at
$4.003 per million British thermal units, up 1.2 cents, after
trading between $3.965 and $4.033.
    The nearby contract edged up less than 1 cent on Monday,
after falling nearly 6 percent in last week's holiday-shortened
week and more than 8 percent in May.
    It hit a one-month low of $3.883 on May 9 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 Monday again called for below-normal temperatures for
about the eastern half of the nation and above-normal readings
in most of the western half.
    Nuclear plant outages totaled 12,800 megawatts, or 13
percent of U.S. capacity, down from 12,900 MW out on Monday and
17,500 MW out a year ago, but up from a five-year average outage
rate of 11,900 MW. 
    Data last week from the U.S. Energy Information
Administration showed inventories rose the prior week by 88
billion cubic feet to 2.141 trillion cubic feet. Stocks are
nearly 24 percent below year-ago levels and nearly 4 percent
below the five-year average. 

    Early estimates for Thursday's EIA gas storage report range
from 80 bcf to 96 bcf versus a year-ago gain of 63 bcf and a
five-year average build of 92 bcf for that week.

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