U.S. gas: Futures lower as well-supplied market shrugs off storm

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Natural gas futures fell Friday, as traders looked past storm-related production shutdowns and focused on the prospect for cooler temperatures and reduced demand ahead.

Natural gas for October delivery recently traded down 4.8 cents, or 1.2%, to $4.003 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

With the U.S. still well supplied, market participants shrugged off a storm forming in the central Gulf of Mexico that the government said has shut in about 2.4% of Gulf natural gas production as of late Thursday. The Gulf accounts for about 7.4% of total U.S. gas output.

"The market's starting to realize somewhat that the storm in the Gulf isn't really going to impact gas that much," said Eric Bickel, commodity analyst at Summit Energy in Louisville, Ky. "We're still at record-level production."

The storm, dubbed Tropical Depression 13, is packing winds of 35 miles per hour and is set to drench portions of the Gulf Coast this weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Futures lost some ground after the Labor Department's nonfarm payrolls report showed the economy failed to add any jobs last month. Unlike many other markets, the natural gas market usually reacts little to the monthly jobs report, but August's disappointing reading has raised some worries about slowing demand.

"We just got a pretty horrendous jobs number," Canaccord Genuity analyst Cameron Horwitz said. "So you've got that kind of gravitational pull from the negative marks in risk assets."

The data also point to trouble ahead for industrial demand, a key supporter of gas prices in recent months, Horwitz said.

August was the first time in almost a year that the U.S. economy failed to add jobs. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected nonfarm payrolls to rise 80,000.

Front-month gas futures have fallen from a high of more than $5 per million British thermal units reached in June, as the hotter-than-usual summer spurred added gas-driven electricity use to fuel air conditioners.

With the peak summer cooling-demand season nearly over, traders are now focused on the likelihood of natural gas demand diminishing through the fall, before heating needs trigger an expected pickup in the winter.

Meanwhile, natural gas for next-day delivery at the benchmark Henry Hub in Louisiana recently traded at $4.0685/MMBtu, according to IntercontinentalExchange, down 11.2 cents from Thursday's average. Natural gas for next-day delivery at Transcontinental Zone 6 in New York traded at $4.23/MMBtu, down 17.3 cents from Thursday.

--Drew FitzGerald contributed to this article.



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