U.S. gas: Futures fall as temperatures moderate

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Natural gas futures fell Wednesday as moderating temperatures across the U.S. keep a lid on demand for heating and cooling.

Natural gas for October delivery was recently down 3.1 cents, or 0.8%, at $3.767 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The natural gas market is entering the autumn "shoulder season," a period of sluggish demand due to falling electricity consumption.

Across the U.S., falling temperatures prompt consumers to turn off their air conditioners. But they likely won't be turning on the heat for several weeks.

"We have reached the stage where it takes something out of the ordinary to push gas prices higher. And the later it gets (in the summer), the less likely that becomes," said Peter Beutel, head of oil-trading advisor Cameron Hanover, in a research note.

Elevated production and a relatively mild hurricane season have kept gas futures under the psychologically significant $4/MMBtu marker in recent weeks. Futures hit a six-month low of $3.743/MMBtu on Monday, and are down 6.7% in September.

Still, analysts said that prices are reaching levels low enough to discourage bets on a deeper drop. A bout of cold weather in the next couple weeks would likely bring a sharp rebound, and traders are keeping one eye on the tropics for any potential disruptions to output.

"The real support as we get closer to November is the risk of an early onset of cold. That's going to prevent people from adding on much more to their short position," Gene McGillian, a broker and analyst with Tradition Energy, said.

Tropical Storm Ophelia, the 15th named storm in the Atlantic this year, is moving westward over the tropical Atlantic with sustained winds of 45 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. The NHC expects some gradual strengthening "over the next day or so."



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