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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures were little changed on Thursday as traders cautiously awaited a weekly federal gas storage report, although prices were trading below a more than two-year high hit earlier this week on forecasts for milder weather and lower demand over the next two weeks.

Front-month gas futures were little changed at $3.604 per million British thermal units by 9:31 am EDT (1528 GMT). Prices hit $3.822 on Tuesday, the highest since late 2018.

Data provider Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would rise from 89.9 bcfd this week to 92.7 bcfd next week, but was still below the prior week’s 93.3 bcfd as milder weather curbs air conditioning use.

Phil Flynn, a senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago said cooler weather in the Midwest and some profit taking ahead of the Energy Information Administration’s weekly natural gas inventory report due at 10:30 am EDT on Thursday, were keeping the market subdued.

A Reuters poll showed US utilities likely added a smaller-than-usual 34 bcf of natural gas to storage last week as hot weather kept demand high to keep air conditioners humming.

Refinitiv said gas output in the Lower 48 US states averaged 90.8 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in July. That compares with an average of 92.2 bcfd in June and an all-time high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019.

The amount of gas flowing to US liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants averaged 11 bcfd so far in July, up from 10.1 bcfd in June, but still below April’s record 11.5 bcfd.

With European and Asian gas both trading over $11 per mmBtu, analysts expect LNG exports from the United States to remain high. US pipeline exports to Mexico averaged 6.4 bcfd so far in July, down from a record 6.7 bcfd in June.

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