NEW YORK: US spot natural gas prices fell across the board on Wednesday as a front of milder weather in major consuming regions was expected to dampen heating demand in the coming days.
Prices moved higher earlier in the week, with some areas in the Northeast hitting two year highs due to the cold weather, before retreating on Wednesday after forecasts of above-normal temperatures in the 6- to 10-day time frame.
Gas for delivery on Thursday at the benchmark supply point at Henry Hub in Louisiana fell by 13 cents to $3.30 per million British thermal units (mmBtu). Late trades on Wednesday were at a 4-cent premium to futures, up from a 1-cent premium on Monday.
The US Henry Hub spot natural gas price for 2012 averaged $2.77, a 13-year low, as high production levels and weak demand weighed on prices.
In major consumer markets, next-day gas on the Transco pipeline at the New York City gate fell $7.09, on average, to $9.79. In New York, a large consuming region with supply constraints that make it prone to price spikes, gas hit an average $16.88 per mmBtu on Monday, the highest level since January 2011.
In Chicago, gas dropped 17 cents to $3.41.
On NYMEX, the front-month contract traded late down more than 12 cents, or 3.7 percent, at $3.224.
The latest National Weather Service six- to 10-day forecast issued on Tuesday called for above-normal temperatures for a little more than the eastern half of the nation - including the major consuming regions of the Northeast and Midwest - with below-normal readings in the West.
Nuclear outages, which can affect demand for gas, totaled just 8,500 megawatts, or 8 percent of US capacity, up from 6,400 MW out a year ago and a five-year average outage rate of about 5,000 MW.
WINTER STORAGE STILL BLOATED
Last week's Energy Information Agency (EIA) gas storage report showed total domestic inventories fell by 72 billion cubic feet to 3.652 trillion cubic feet, below market expectations for a 76 bcf draw.
Inventories started the heating season in early November at an all-time high of 3.929 tcf and are still at record highs for this time of year, hovering at more than 2 percent above last year and 13 percent above the five-year average.
Early withdrawal estimates for this week's report range from 68 bcf to 165 bcf, with most expecting a draw above 100 bcf. Stocks fell 77 bcf during the same year-ago week, and have dropped about 111 bcf on average for that week over the past five years.
The EIA report will be delayed by one day this week due to the New Year's holiday.
Center>Copyright Reuters, 2013