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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures edged up to a fresh 29-month high on Friday on forecasts for hotter weather and higher air conditioning and export demand next week than previously expected.

Traders noted prices were up even though the weather was expected to turn milder in two weeks, which should cut air conditioning demand a bit.

On their second to last day as the front-month, gas futures for July delivery were up 1.8 cents, or 0.5%, to $3.436 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) at 8:46 a.m. EDT (1246 GMT), putting the contract on track for its highest close since January 2019 for a second day in a row.

The August future, which will soon be the front-month, was up about 2 cents to $3.45 per mmBtu.

For the week, the front-month was up about 7%, its biggest weekly increase since late April. Last week, the contract slid over 2%.

Data provider Refinitiv said gas output in the Lower 48 US states has averaged 91.6 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.

Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would rise from 87.9 bcfd this week to 93.7 bcfd next week with the coming of hotter weather before sliding to 92.4 bcfd in two weeks as temperatures ease. The forecast for next week was higher than Refinitiv’s projection on Thursday.

The amount of gas flowing to US liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants has fallen to 9.9 bcfd so far in June due mostly to short-term maintenance at Gulf Coast facilities and the pipelines that supply them with fuel. That compares with averages of 10.8 bcfd in May and a record 11.5 bcfd in April.

But with European and Asian gas both trading over $11 per mmBtu, analysts said they expect buyers around the world to keep purchasing all the LNG the United States can produce. The Title Transfer Facility (TTF) in the Netherlands, the European gas benchmark, was at its highest since December 2013.

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