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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures climbed to a fresh 29-month high on Monday as a heat wave boosted power prices in the Pacific Northwest to all-time highs and on expectations soaring global gas prices will increase US exports to record levels.

Traders noted gas futures rose despite forecasts for slightly milder weather and less air conditioning demand over the next two weeks than previously expected.

On their last day as the front-month, gas futures for July delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) rose 6.2 cents, or 1.8%, to $3.558 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) at 8:58 a.m. EDT (1258 GMT), putting the contract on track for its highest close since January 2019 for a third day in a row.

August futures, which will soon be the front-month, were up about 6 cents to $3.58 per mmBtu.

Last week, US speculators boosted their long futures and options positions on the NYMEX to their highest since November 2018 and their short positions to their highest since June 2020, which increased open interest to the highest since March 2020.

Analysts said speculators boosted their longs on expectations US exports would return to record highs as global gas prices soar and with the amount of gas in US storage for next winter almost 6% below normal for this time of year. The analysts said speculators boosted their shorts because some expect current high gas prices will cause producers to increase output and power generators to burn more coal and less gas, both of which ultimately will reduce prices.

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