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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures jumped more than 2% on Monday, putting them on track for their highest close in 30 months, on soaring global gas prices and forecasts for more air conditioning demand next week than previously expected.

The US price increase occurred despite forecasts for a little less hot weather and lower air conditioning demand this week than previously expected.

Front-month gas futures were up 8.6 cents, or 2.3%, to $3.760 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) at 8:13 a.m. EDT (1213 GMT), putting the contract on track for its highest close since December 2018.

Speculators, meanwhile, cut their net long futures and options positions on the New York Mercantile and Intercontinental Exchanges last week for the first time in seven weeks as buyers cashed in some of their gains after front-month futures rose for nine days in a row.

Data provider Refinitiv said US output in the Lower 48 states has slipped to 91.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in July, due mostly to pipeline problems in West Virginia earlier in the month. That compares with an average of 92.2 bcfd in June and an all-time high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019.

Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would rise from 92.3 bcfd this week to 94.7 bcfd next week as the weather turns seasonally hotter.

The forecast for next week was higher than Refinitiv predicted on Friday.

The amount of gas flowing to US liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants has averaged 10.9 bcfd so far in July, up from 10.1 bcfd in June but still below the record 11.5 bcfd in April.

With European and Asian gas trading near $13 and $14 per mmBtu, respectively, analysts said buyers around the world would keep purchasing all the LNG the United States can produce.

US pipeline exports to Mexico, meanwhile, have averaged 6.5 bcfd so far in July, down from a record 6.8 bcfd in June.

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