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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures edged up on Thursday as power generators burned more of the fuel to keep air conditioners humming and on forecasts for higher liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

Traders noted that even though the weather was expected to be less hot over the next two weeks than previously expected, temperatures would remain much hotter than normal during that time, keeping air conditioning demand high.

That price increase came ahead of the release of a federal storage report expected to show a slightly smaller than usual storage build during last week's hotter than normal weather.

Analysts forecast US utilities added 40 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas into storage during the week ended Aug. 20. That compares with an increase of 45 bcf in the same week last year and a five-year (2016-2020) average increase of 44 bcf.

If correct, last week's injection would boost stockpiles to 2.862 trillion cubic feet (tcf), or 5.9% below the five-year average of 3.040 tcf for this time of year.

On its second to last day as the front-month, gas futures for September delivery rose 5.3 cents, or 1.4%, to $3.950 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) at 7:59 a.m. EDT (1159 GMT).

The October contract, which will soon be the front-month, was up about 6 cents to $3.98 per mmBtu.

Recent gains in the October contract over the past few days, boosted its premium over September to its highest since November 2020.

In the power market, hot weather in the US Northeast boosted prices in New England over $100 per megawatt hour for the first time since June.

In Texas, meanwhile, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), grid operator for most of the state, said peak demand on Tuesday will remain the highest so far in 2021 at 73,463 megawatts (MW) after usage on Wednesday fell short of that level. That compares with the grid's all-time peak of 74,820 MW in August 2019.

Data provider Refinitiv said gas output in the US Lower 48 states rose to an average of 92.1 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in August from 91.6 bcfd in July. That compares with an all-time monthly high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019.

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