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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures jumped more than 3% to a fresh seven-year high on Monday on forecasts for higher demand next week than previously expected, as air conditioning use remains strong in many parts of the country and heating demand starts to pick up in other areas.

Traders also noted prices were climbing as record global gas prices keep demand for US exports high at the same time that more than half of US production in the Gulf of Mexico remains shut-in two weeks after Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast, and US gas inventories, like those in Europe, remain lower than normal heading into the winter heating season when demand for the fuel peaks. Front-month gas futures were up 18.2 cents, or 3.7%, to $5.120 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) at 8:39 a.m. EDT (1239 GMT), putting the contract on track for its highest close since February 2014. With the front-month up about 28% since late August when Ida entered the Gulf of Mexico, gas speculators boosted their net long positions on the NYMEX and Intercontinental Exchange last week for a second week in a row for the first time since early June, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Data provider Refinitiv said gas output in the US Lower 48 states has fallen to an average of 90.1 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in September, from 92.0 bcfd in August, due mostly to Ida-related losses along the Gulf Coast. That compares with a monthly record of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019.

About 1.2 bcfd, or 54%, of gas production in the Gulf of Mexico remains shut-in since Ida, according to government data. US power company Entergy Corp, meanwhile, said about 100,000 of its Louisiana customers were still without service, down from a peak of 902,000 who lost power due to Ida.

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