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U.S. natgas eases, but soaring global rates spur strong outlook

U.S. natural gas futures eased off recent multi-year peaks on projections for slightly lower consumption through next week, but soaring global rates burnished the outlook for prices and kept them on course for a fourth straight weekly gain.

A blistering rally in European and Asian gas prices has invigorated demand for cheaper supply from the United States, especially amid concerns over a shortage heading into the winter.

Front-month gas futures were down 9.5 cents, or 1.8%, to $5.240 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) by 10:02 a.m. EDT (1402 GMT). But the contract is up nearly 7% so far this week. "Prices could move even higher despite already hitting record highs in Europe ahead of rising winter demand. Several factors have contributed to low inventory levels and the spike in prices in Europe, including lower volumes from Russia and strong demand for LNG globally leading to fewer spot cargoes being available," said Stacey Morris, director of research at Alerian. "The spike in natural gas prices is already having an impact with U.S. fertilizer maker CF Industries shutting down two factories in the UK.

High prices could have a negative impact on economic recovery as energy costs create headwinds for industrial activities," Morris added Driving the slight pullback, Refinitiv projected average U.S. gas demand, including exports, would fall from 86.6 bcfd this week to 84.8 bcfd next week as LNG exports decline. The forecast was lower than expected on Thursday. Despite the shutdown of the Freeport LNG export plant in Texas during Tropical Storm Nicholas on Tuesday, the amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants has averaged 10.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in September, matching the 10.5 bcfd in August. That compares with a monthly record of 11.5 bcfd in April. Also slowing the recent price rally, utilities added a higher-than-expected 83 billion cubic feet of gas into storage in the week ended Sept. 10.


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