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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures held near a seven-month high on Monday as global gas and oil prices continued to soar despite forecasts for weaker US gas demand over the next two weeks than previously expected.

Front-month gas futures remained unchanged at $3.296 per million British thermal units at 9:54 a.m. EDT (1354 GMT). On Friday, the contract closed at its highest since Oct. 30, 2020.

US oil futures rose to their highest since October 2018 in intraday trade earlier Monday.

US speculators boosted their net long futures and options positions on the New York Mercantile and Intercontinental Exchanges last week by the most since February to their highest since March as soaring global gas prices prompt buyers around the world to keep purchasing all the LNG the United States can produce.

Gas prices in Europe and Asia both traded over $10 per mmBtu, with the Title Transfer Facility (TTF) in the Netherlands at its highest since January 2014.

In the power market, meanwhile, extreme heat blanketing California and the US West caused regional prices for Monday to jump to their highest since the February freeze when gas pipelines and wind turbines froze in Texas, leaving millions without power.

Data provider Refinitiv said gas output in the Lower 48 US states averaged 91.9 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in June, up from 91.0 bcfd in May but still well below the monthly record high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019.

Even with warmer weather on the horizon, Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would hold around 89.9 bcfd this week and next as rising prices prompt power generators to burn more coal and less gas to keep air conditioners humming. Those demand forecasts were lower than Refinitiv projected on Friday.

The amount of gas flowing to US LNG export plants slid to an average of 9.8 bcfd so far in June, down from 10.8 bcfd in May and an all-time high of 11.5 bcfd in April. Traders noted LNG feedgas was down due to short-term maintenance at the Sabine Pass and Cameron export plants in Louisiana and some of the pipelines that provide them with fuel.

US pipeline exports to Mexico averaged 6.6 bcfd so far in June, putting them on track to top May's 6.2-bcfd record.

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