May 21, 2013 / 1:33 PM / in 4 years

U.S. natgas futures up 2 pct, extend gains for third day

* Front month still below recent 21-month high
    * Weather forecasts turn warmer for most of nation
    * Nuclear plant outages slip back below normal

    By Eileen Houlihan
    NEW YORK, May 21 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures rose
nearly 2 percent early on Tuesday, extending gains for a third
straight session as warmer weather blanketing much of the nation
boosted demand for air conditioning.
    As of 9:23 a.m. EDT (1323 GMT), front-month June natural gas
futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were at $4.16
per million British thermal units, up 7 cents, or near 2
    The nearby contract 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 Monday called for above-normal temperatures for about the
eastern two thirds of the nation and below-normal readings only
on the West coast.
    Nuclear plant outages totaled 15,900 megawatts, or 16
percent of U.S. capacity, down from 16,600 MW out on Monday,
17,300 MW out a year ago and a five-year average outage rate of
16,200 MW. 
    Baker Hughes drilling data last week showed the
gas-directed rig count rose by four from the prior week's
18-year low of 350. 

    Early injection estimates for Thursday's gas storage report
from the U.S. Energy Information Administration range from 87
billion cubic feet to 99 bcf versus a 75-bcf build during the
same week last year and a five-year average rise for that week
of 90 bcf.

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