US GAS: Futures End Lower On Warm Weather, Supplies

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NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Natural gas futures finished lower Wednesday, pressured by unusually warm spring weather in the major gas-consuming regions and by robust production.

Natural gas for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 7.7 cents lower, or 1.88%, at $4.019 a million British thermal units after reaching a low of $4.01/MMBtu earlier in the day.

Futures got a boost from bargain-hunting early in the day, but prices quickly succumbed to mild weather and abundant supplies. Futures have fallen about 30% since the beginning of the year as winter heating demand fades and producers continue to ramp up drilling activity.

"We're in the shoulder months, so there's not much demand out there right now," said Chris Jarvis, the president of Caprock Risk Management, a Hampshire Falls, N.H., energy investment and analysis firm.

Frontier Weather, a Tulsa, Okla., private forecaster, was predicting above-normal temperatures for the Plains, Mid-Atlantic states and Northeast from April 12 to April 16. Frontier was also expecting warmer-than-normal temperatures for much of the eastern U.S. from April 17 to April 21.

Meanwhile, gas supplies remain ample as producers continue to extract gas from onshore shale-rock formations. The U.S. Energy Information Administration is expected to report that 30 billion cubic feet of gas were added to storage during the week ended April 2, according to the average prediction of 22 analysts and traders in a Dow Jones Newswires survey.

The storage estimate is greater than last year's 17 bcf injection into storage and surpasses the five-year average build, which is 11 bcf. The EIA is scheduled to release its storage data Thursday at 10:30 a.m. EDT.

If the storage estimate is correct, inventories as of April 2 will total 1.668 trillion cubic feet, 12% above the five-year average and 0.2% below last year's level.

"In the near term mild weather will allow for some significant injections later this month," Kent Bayazitoglu, an analyst with Gelber & Associates in Houston, wrote in a note to clients. "In terms of average injection size, April looks to be a record month."


-By Christine Buurma, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2143; christine.buurma@dowjones.com



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