U.S. gas: Futures ease as Tropical Storm Nate seen hitting Mexico

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NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Natural-gas futures fell Friday, as mild weather was expected to cut demand and Tropical Storm Nate's expected path away from the main Gulf of Mexico gas-production area limited the chance of further supply disruptions.

Gas for October delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange recently traded 2.6 cents lower, or 0.7%, at $3.954 a million British thermal units.

Tropical Storm Nate, located in the southern tip of the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to head west toward Mexico and miss most of the region's oil and gas infrastructure. The National Hurricane Center said early Friday that the storm weakened overnight, and isn't likely to turn north toward the U.S. coast, where gas producers are still working to restore the remaining stalled output following Tropical Storm Lee.

With the storm unlikely to seriously curtail Gulf of Mexico gas production, traders looked to weather forecasts as a gauge for likely demand for the power-plant fuel. Mostly mild weather is expected across major gas-consuming areas along the East Coast through the Southeast and parts of the Midwest during the next two weeks, meteorologists with MDA EarthSat said Friday. Warmer-than-normal temperatures are expected for the Northwest through the weekend.

The weather and tropical-storm outlooks point to large increases in gas stockpiles for the rest of the month, said Jim Ritterbusch, of Ritterbusch and Associates, in a note. Injections into U.S. underground gas storage typically rise as summer's heat fades and leaves less demand for gas-fired electricity to run air conditioning.

The Energy Information Administration said Thursday that 64 billion cubic feet of gas were added to storage during the week ended Sept. 2, in line with forecasts. There were 3.025 trillion cubic feet in storage on the week, 2% below the five-year average.

The EIA said this week that it expects inventories to rise to 3.74 tcf at the end of injection season in October, short of earlier predictions that stockpiles would rise to a record. The amount of gas in storage hit a record of 3.84 tcf in November 2010.



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