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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures slipped on Thursday on forecasts for milder weather and lower heating demand next week despite a report showing an expected, bigger-than-usual storage draw. That price decline came even as power and gas prices in the Northeast rose to their highest in a year over the past couple of days as a major winter storm battered the region.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said utilities pulled 122 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas from storage during the week ended Dec. 11. Analysts blamed the big draw on record liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. That was in line with the 120-bcf decline analysts forecast in a Reuters poll and compares with a decrease of 97 bcf during the same week last year and a five-year (2015-19) average withdrawal of 105 bcf.

Front-month gas futures fell 4.1 cents, or 1.5%, to settle at $2.636 per million British thermal units, their lowest close since December 11. Data provider Refinitiv said output in the Lower 48 US states averaged 90.8 billion cubic feet per day so far in December. That compares with a seven-month high of 91.0 bcfd in November 2020 and an all-time monthly high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019.

With the weather expected to turn milder, Refinitiv projected average demand, including exports, would slip from 124.3 bcfd this week to 122.9 bcfd next week. That, however, was a little higher than Refinitiv forecasts on Wednesday.

The amount of gas flowing to US LNG export plants, meanwhile, has averaged 10.7 bcfd so far in December, which would top November's 9.8-bcfd record. That increase comes as the third train at Cheniere Energy Inc's Corpus Christi LNG plant in Texas prepares to enter commercial service and as rising prices in Europe and Asia prompt buyers to purchase more US gas.

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