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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures were little changed on Tuesday after rising over 5% earlier in the day following the release of a midday forecast calling for slightly milder weather in mid-February than previously expected.

Even the midday forecast, however, projected the weather would remain much colder than normal through the middle of the month.

Front-month gas futures fell 0.5 cents, or 0.2%, to settle at $2.845 per million British thermal units. On Monday, the front-month settled at its highest since Dec. 1 after rising over 11% in its biggest daily percentage gain since September.

Data provider Refinitiv said output in the lower 48 US states averaged 89.9 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in February. Traders said that was down from a two-month low of 91.0 bcfd in January due in part to the freezing of some wells. Output hit an all-time monthly high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019.

Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would rise from 127.4 bcfd this week to 143.0 bcfd next week as the weather turns colder and heating use increases. That forecast for next week was much higher than Refinitiv’s outlook on Monday.

The amount of gas flowing to US liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants averaged 10.7 bcfd so far in February, up from January’s 10.4 bcfd average and on track to tie December’s 10.7 bcfd record high.

That LNG record came as buyers around the world purchase near record amounts of US gas because prices in Europe and Asia remain much higher than in the United States.

Traders, however, noted US LNG exports cannot rise much more until new units enter service in the second half of 2022, since feedgas to the LNG plants was already over their 10.5-bcfd export capacity. LNG plants can pull in a little more gas than they can export since they use some of the fuel to run the facility.

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