NEW YORK, Nov 14 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures lost
ground for the second straight day on Thursday, with investors
continuing to take profits after recent gains and ahead of
milder late-week weather that should slow overall demand.
Cold weather over much of the nation this week helped drive
front-month futures higher for six straight sessions through
Tuesday, but technical traders said the market was due for a
profit-taking pullback after the 5 percent run-up, particularly
with a weekly inventory report due out later this morning.
"Overnight, natural gas futures dropped a little more than a
nickel ... as forecasts indicating the return of above-normal
temperatures across the Midwest and Northeast over the next five
days depressed the market," Addison Armstrong, director of
market research at Tradition Energy, said in a report.
Armstrong said fluctuating weather forecasts, record-high
gas production and expectations of an above-average storage
injection had all helped to derail the recent rally.
At 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT), front-month gas futures on
the New York Mercantile Exchange were down 4.6 cents, or 1.3
percent, at $3.52 per million British thermal units, after
trading between $3.505 and $3.566.
The nearby contract posted a 2-1/2-month low of $3.379 per
mmBtu early last week, but finished the week up 1.3 percent, its
first weekly gain in four weeks. The contract is down about 1
percent so far this week.
After a brief late-week warm up in the Northeast and
Midwest, MDA Weather Services noted, the six-to-10-day and
11-to-15-day forecasts still favored a colder-than-normal
outlook for the central and eastern United States.
While that should stir more heating demand, many traders
remained skeptical of the upside in prices, with stockpiles
comfortable and production flowing at a record-high pace.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday
raised its estimate for domestic natural gas production in 2014,
expecting output to be up more than 1 percent from 2013's
Traders and analysts polled by Reuters on average expect an
increase of 21 billion cubic feet when the EIA on Thursday
releases inventory data for the week ended Nov. 8. That would
compare with a 12 bcf draw during the year-earlier week and a
five-year average increase of 19 bcf for that week.
EIA data last week showed total gas inventories stood at
3.814 trillion cubic feet, 2.9 percent below last year's record
highs at that time but 1.5 percent above average.
Nuclear plant outages on Thursday totaled 9,857 megawatts,
or about 10 percent of U.S. capacity. That was down from
Wednesday's total of 10,532 MW and well below the 25,839 MW out
one year ago and the five-year average outage rate of 17,894 MW.