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CHICAGO: US natural gas futures rose on forecasts for cooler weather and higher heating demand next week than previously expected.

That lack of price movement came despite forecasts for milder weather in mid May, a small decline in exports and an even smaller increase in output so far this month.

Front-month gas futures rose 3.0 cents, or 1.0percent, to settle at $2.958 per million British thermal units.

For the week, the front-month was up over 1percent, putting the contract on track for its fourth week of gains in a row for the first time since February.

Data provider Refinitiv said gas output in the Lower 48 US states averaged 90.8 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in May, up from 90.6 bcfd in April, but well below November 2019’s monthly record of 95.4 bcfd.

Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would rise from 87.2 bcfd this week to 88.1 bcfd next week as temperatures decline before falling to 84.7 bcfd as the weather turns milder. The forecast for next week was higher than Refinitiv estimated on Thursday.

The amount of gas flowing to US LNG export plants averaged 11.4 bcfd so far in May, down from April’s monthly record of 11.5 bcfd.

Buyers around the world continue to purchase near-record amounts of US gas because prices in Europe and Asia remain high enough to justify the cost of buying and transporting the US fuel across the ocean.

Traders, however, said US LNG exports cannot rise much more until new units enter service in late 2021/early 2022, since the United States only has the capacity to export about 10.5 bcfd of gas as LNG. LNG plants pull in a little more gas than they export because some of the fuel is used to run the facility.

US pipeline exports to Mexico averaged 5.9 bcfd so far in May, down from April’s monthly record of 6.1 bcfd, Refinitiv data showed.

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