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US natural gas futures traded within a few cents of a five-week high on Monday even though production held near a record high and analysts lowered their forecasts for demand over the next two weeks.

Front-month gas futures for August delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange were down 0.8 cents, or 0.3pc, at $2.410 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) at 9:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT). On Friday, the contract closed at $2.418, its highest close since May 31.

Output in the Lower 48 US states eased to 90.6 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) on Sunday from an all-time high of 91.1 bcfd on Friday, according to data provider Refinitiv. That compares with an average of 82.5 bcfd during this week last year.

On the demand side, Refinitiv projected usage would rise to 90.7 bcfd next week from 89.2 bcfd this week.

That, however, is lower than its forecasts last week of 91.8 bcfd for next week and 90.2 bcfd for this week because power generators are expected to burn less gas over the next two weeks to meet air conditioning usage.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, meanwhile, rose to a record high of 6.3 bcfd on July 4 and almost matched that on Sunday.

Refinitiv projected LNG exports would keep hitting fresh record highs in coming weeks as new units enter service at several export terminals, including Cheniere Energy Inc's Corpus Christi, Sempra Energy's Cameron in Louisiana, Freeport LNG's Freeport in Texas and Kinder Morgan Inc's Elba in Georgia.

Those new units, however, will add to the current global LNG glut.

Traders said they would not be surprised to see LNG buyers reject some US cargoes after gas prices in Europe and Asia fell to multi-year lows over the past few weeks.

Analysts said utilities likely added 67 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas to inventories during the week ended July 5.

That compares with an increase of 76 bcf during the same week last year and a five-year (2014-18) average increase of 70 bcf for the period.

If correct, it would be the first time this year that the storage increase was smaller than the five-year average and would boost stockpiles to 2.457 trillion cubic feet (tcf).

That would be 6.0pc below the five-year average of 2.613 tcf for this time of year.

The amount of gas in storage has remained below the five-year average since September 2017.

It peaked at 33pc under the five-year average in March 2019. Analysts forecast inventories will reach a near-normal 3.7 tcf by the end of the summer injection season on Oct 31.

Copyright Reuters, 2019