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US spot natural gas prices rally on short covering

gas pipeline 400NEW YORK: US spot natural gas prices rose at nearly every point on Friday as some cold weather lingered and traders covered short positions following two straight days of declines.


Gas for delivery through Monday at the benchmark Henry Hub supply point in Louisiana rose by 1 cent to $3.20 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), after falling 11 cents on Thursday. Late trades on Friday were at a discount of 6 cents to futures, down from 3 cents on Wednesday.


Cash prices had fallen over the last two sessions as the prospect of milder weather next week was expected to temper heating demand across the eastern half of the nation.


"This is a little short-covering rally like the one we are seeing in futures today," said Dominick Chirichella, a senior partner at the Energy Management Institute in New York.


NYMEX natural gas futures posted their first gain in four sessions after government storage data showed a larger-than-expected drawdown from winter inventories. February futures rose 9.6 cents, more than 3 percent, to $3.294 per mmBtu in late trade.


In major consumer markets, next-day gas on the Transco pipeline at the New York City gate fell $1.20, on average, to $4.83, continuing its retreat from a two year high of $16.88 hit on Monday. New York was one of just two price points covered by Reuters that fell on Friday.


In Chicago, gas rose 4 cents to $3.28.


US gas inventories fell last week by 135 billion cubic feet, above industry expectations for a 127 bcf draw, according to government data released on Friday.


Despite the big draw, traders noted storage still remains at 3.517 trillion cubic feet, nearly 1 percent above year-ago levels and more than 12 percent above the five-year average level.


The latest National Weather Service six-to-10-day forecast issued on Thursday again called for above-normal temperatures for the eastern half of the US, with below-normal readings for most of the western half.


Nuclear outages, which can affect gas demand, totaled just 7,500 megawatts, or 7 percent, of US capacity, even with outages on Thursday, but up from 4,300 MW out a year ago and a five-year average outage rate of about 5,000 MW.


Center>Copyright Reuters, 2013