U.S. gas: Futures slip as cooling temps offer little support

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NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Natural gas futures slipped Monday, as cooler temperatures and a waning hurricane season weigh on demand expectations.

Natural gas for October delivery recently traded down 2.1 cents, or 0.6%, to $3.787 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract earlier fell as low as $3.743 per million Btus, its lowest level since March.

Futures drifted lower after several forecasts pointed to historically normal temperatures across much of the U.S., dimming expectations that additional cooling-driven demand is on the horizon. With the peak summer demand season over and the market still well supplied, traders see few reasons to bid prices higher, said Matt Smith, analyst at Summit Energy in Louisville, Ky.

"We're past the end of the peak of hurricane season, temperatures are falling, we're at a low for seasonal demand and there's nothing too bullish on the fundamentals," he said.

"We're just right in the realm of shoulder-month season right now," Smith added, referring to the period of sluggish demand between summer, when cooling needs rise, and winter, when heating needs takes over.

Normal temperatures are forecast across much of the Midwest, East Coast and South in the coming days, said private forecaster Commodity Weather Group.

"We do not see any significant demand concerns this period," the group said in a research report.

Front-month gas futures have held below the psychologically significant $4 level in recent weeks, pressured by the near-record pace of U.S. inland production. Meanwhile, the relatively mild hurricane season has left Gulf Coast production largely untouched.

On Friday, oil-field service company Baker Hughes Inc. said the number of rigs seeking natural gas in the U.S. rose by 20 last week to 912. Although the figure is down from a high of 992 reached in August of last year, it remains elevated by historical standards and is widely expected to lead to additional production.

Meanwhile, natural gas for next-day delivery at the benchmark Henry Hub in Louisiana recently traded at $3.80/MMBtu, according to IntercontinentalExchange, down 1.01 cents from Friday's average. Natural gas for Tuesday delivery at Transcontinental Zone 6 in New York traded at $4.0350/MMBtu, down 2.67 cents from Friday.



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