U.S. spot natgas prices rise as cold boosts heating demand23 minutes ago by Thomson Reuters

* Henry Hub gas remains just under last week's 19-month high    * Near-term cold expected to moderate late week, next week    * Nuclear plant outages back above normal levels    By Eileen Houlihan    NEW YORK, April 2 (Reuters) - U.S. spot natural gas pricesrose across the nation on Tuesday, as near-term cold weather inconsuming regions boosted heating demand.    In addition, traders said volumes on Monday and Tuesday werestrong, with some utilities likely caught short by the surprisecold coming into April, which typically starts out milder.    ICE showed daily volume at the benchmark Henry Hub inLouisiana of nearly 780,000 dekatherms on Tuesday and 834,000 onMonday, well above a more typical weekday in March where volumesranged from 300,000 to 500,000.    Nuclear power plant outages were also above normal, leadingto increased demand for natural gas-fired generation.    Gas for Wednesday delivery at Henry Hub <NG-W-HH> rose 10cents on average to $4.07 per million British thermal units,after climbing twice last week to $4.08, its highest averageprice since early September 2011.    Late-winter cold helped put a dent in inventories, whilehigh nuclear power plant outages kept demand for gas high andunderpinned a nearly 16-percent run-up in Henry Hub prices lastmonth.    But with forecasts for moderating weather late this week andnext week, most traders expect limited upside.    Tuesday's Hub average was above the April monthly index of$3.98 and well above the year-ago price of $1.88. Cash pricesbottomed out last year in late-April at $1.82.    Late deals eased slightly to 10 cents over the front-monthMay natural gas futures contract on the New York MercantileExchange, from deals done late Monday at a 12-centpremium.    The front-month futures contract traded late down about 5cents at $3.972, also below last week's 19-month high of $4.121.    In consuming regions, gas on the Transco pipeline at the NewYork citygate <NG-NYCZ6>, the day's biggest gainer on thenear-term cold, jumped 20 cents to average $7.05, while Chicagogas <NG-CHGC> was 5 cents higher on the day at $4.32.    After some early-week cold in consuming regions, the latestNational Weather Service six-to-10-day forecast issued on Mondaycalled for above-normal readings for about the eastern half ofthe nation and in some Northwest states. Below-normal readingswere only expected in parts of the Southwest.    Nuclear outages totaled 23,400 megawatts, or 23 percent ofU.S. capacity, up from 22,900 MW out a year ago and a five-yearaverage outage rate of 20,700 MW.         INVENTORY DRAW WELL ABOVE EXPECTATIONS    Last week's gas storage report from the U.S. EnergyInformation Administration showed domestic gas inventories fellby 95 billion cubic feet from the prior week, above Reuters pollestimates for an 87 bcf draw.     It was the fifth time in six weeks that the weeklywithdrawal was above expectations.    Domestic gas inventories are now at 1.781 trillion cubicfeet, nearly 27 percent below last year's record high, but stillnearly 4 percent above the five-year average.    (Storage graphic: http://link.reuters.com/mup44s)    Early estimates for this week's EIA gas storage report rangefrom 65 bcf to 108 bcf versus a 43 bcf build during the sameweek last year and a five-year average increase for that week of4 bcf.    Stocks began the winter at a record 3.929 tcf, but about2.15 tcf of gas has been pulled from storage so far this heatingseason, or 45 percent more than last year at this time.    Storage will probably end the heating season near the 1.73tcf average, or 30 percent below last winter's record-highfinish of 2.48 tcf. A Reuters poll in mid-January showed mostanalysts expected stocks to finish the winter at about 2 tcf.    EIA data released Friday showed that gross natural gasproduction in January fell nearly 1 percent from Decemberlevels, the second straight monthly decline.    Output also dropped below year-ago levels for the first timein years, but it is still unclear whether recent monthlydeclines were due to well freeze-offs from the cold orproducers' curbing dry gas flows because prices were not thatattractive.    Baker Hughes data last week showed the gas-directeddrilling rig count fell by 29 to a 14-year low of 389.     (Rig graphic: http://link.reuters.com/nuz86t)        Average prices at spot gas market points and previous dayprices follow (US$/mmBtu):                                      4/02/13             4/01/13          Henry Hub                           4.07                3.97                  New York citygate                   7.05                6.85                  Chicago citygate                    4.32                4.27                  Panhandle (mid-continent)           3.94                3.86                  Northern at Demarcation  (Minn.)    4.18                4.18                  Southern California border          4.04                3.96                  Katy Hub (east Texas)               4.05                3.94                  Waha (west Texas)                   3.98                3.90                  Dominion-South (Appalachia region)  4.19                4.08                  Columbia TCO (Appalachia region)    4.20                4.11                        For more U.S. spot natural gas prices, click on <0#NG-US>        RELATED LINKS     - Canadian Spot Natural Gas Prices..............<0#NG-CA>     - U.S. Spot Gas versus Oil Comparisons..........     - BTU U.S. Spot Natural Gas Prices..............<0#NG-BTU>     - U.S. Nuclear Power Reactor Outage Table ......     - North American Power Plant Outage Table .....     - North American Power Transmission Table .....     - U.S. EEI Electricity Output Report ...........     - U.S. EEI Electricity Output Table ............ <EEI->     - NYMEX Natural Gas Futures .................... <0#NG:>     - NYMEX Crude Oil Futures .......................<0#CL:> (Editing by James Dalgleish)