U.S. gas: Futures slip on lack of sustained heat

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Natural-gas futures fell Tuesday as some weather forecasts and a newly-named tropical storm weren't expected to drive up demand for the fuel.

Natural gas for September delivery recently traded down 3.1 cents, or 0.7%, to $4.157 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Futures rose in early trading but struggled to push higher when the market opened. A lack of sustained heat in big natural-gas consuming regions has put pressure on the weather-driven market.

"In the high-consumption regions of the East and Midwest milder readings prevail, holding back the demand that will be required to push prices higher," said Kilduff Group energy analyst Mike Fitzpatrick in a note to clients.

Above-normal temperatures still remain over Texas and the southern Plains, and the southern U.S. is expected to stay very hot through the 11-15 day forecast, MDA EarthSat Weather said.

Demand for natural gas tends to fluctuate in the summer as the fuel is used to help generate electricity to power air conditioning.

Ample supply of the fuel and signs of a weak economy are still weighing on the market, said Gene McGillian, an analyst with Tradition Energy in Stamford, Conn.

"Whether or not [the market] will plunge lower, we'll have to take a wait-and-see approach," he said.

If temperatures continue to moderate, futures could test $4, he added.

Traders are now watching another tropical storm, Emily, which was named overnight. The storm is expected to approach the island of Hispaniola this evening and Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

So far Tropical Storm Emily hasn't influenced futures drastically, as its projected path doesn't put it heading toward the Gulf of Mexico, where oil and natural gas are produced. The Gulf accounts for about 7.4% of U.S. natural-gas production.

The Energy Information Administration is set to release monthly production and consumption data later Tuesday, after the release was delayed from its original date of July 29. The EIA said the delay was due to "processing difficulties arising from recent resource reductions to EIA."

Natural gas for next-day delivery at the benchmark Henry Hub in Louisiana recently traded at $4.2700/MMBtu, according to IntercontinentalExchange, down 1.5 cents from Monday's average. Natural gas for Wednesday delivery at Transcontinental Zone 6 in New York traded at $4.7000/MMBtu, down 15.4 cents from Monday's average.

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