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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures edged higher on Monday as surging liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and forecasts for colder weather in late December outweighed concerns over the impact to gas consumption from the new coronavirus strain.

Front-month gas futures rose 0.5 cent, or 0.2%, to settle at $2.705 per million British thermal units.

"Colder mid-day weather model runs spurred some buying. Market momentum remains sideways as this current week is starting out warmer before transitioning to colder temperatures around Christmas," said Robert DiDona of Energy Ventures Analysis.

Data provider Refinitiv projected demand, including exports, would fall to an average of 121.6 bcfd this week from 124.3 bcfd in the prior week as weather is expected to remain milder than normal into late December.

However, the demand is expected to rise to 126.7 bcfd next week with the expected arrival of more cold.

Earlier in the session, the natural gas market fell as much as 2.5% alongside a broader sell-off in oil and equity markets after a new variant of the coronavirus forced many countries to impose travel restrictions to and from the United Kingdom.

"This market appears to be seeing some bearish spillover from the sharp selloff in the other industrial commodities and equities related to the UK Covid-19 developments that could potentially force a widespread increase in population lockdowns across Europe that could easily spread to the US," Ritterbusch and Associates said in a note.

Output in the Lower 48 US states has averaged 90.9 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) 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.

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.

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