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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures fell almost 2% to a three-week low on Thursday on forecasts for milder weather and lower heating demand through early February.

That small decline came even though higher gas prices around the world continued to prompt buyers to purchase near record amounts of US liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Front-month gas futures fell 4.8 cents, or 1.9%, to settle at $2.491 per million British thermal units, their lowest close since December 30. Data provider Refinitiv said output in the Lower 48 US states averaged 91.2 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in January. That compares with an eight-month high of 91.5 bcfd in December and an all-time monthly high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019.

Even though the weather will remain milder than normal through early February, next week is still expected to be much colder than this week. Refinitiv projected that cold weather would boost average gas demand, including exports, to 125.6 bcfd next week from 119.5 bcfd this week. That forecast for next week, however, is lower than Refinitiv’s 127.4 bcfd outlook on Wednesday.

The amount of gas flowing to US LNG export plants has averaged 10.5 bcfd so far in January, just shy of December’s 10.7 bcfd monthly record. Traders noted the amount of gas flowing to the LNG plants dipped in recent days due to a small reduction at Cheniere Energy Inc’s Sabine Pass plant in Louisiana due to fog and gas pipeline maintenance.

Those exports came as global futures held near last week’s highs when gas in Asia rose to an all-time high and Europe hit its highest since October 2018 due to extreme cold in both regions and numerous LNG supply issues.