Most U.S. spot natgas slips on milder weather; Hub edges higher1 hour ago by Thomson Reuters

* Benchmark Hub still well under recent 21-month high    * Milder spring weather on tap for most of nation    * Gas futures also higher despite big weekly storage build    * Coming Up: Baker Hughes gas drilling rig data on Friday    By Eileen Houlihan    NEW YORK, May 9 (Reuters) - Most U.S. spot natural gasprices were lower on Thursday, pressured as milder springweather blanketed much of the nation, curbing heating andcooling demand.    Benchmark Henry Hub gas in Louisiana was one of only a fewprice points to show a gain, lifted for the first time in sixsessions along with stronger gas futures.    The Weather Channel's called for temperatures inthe 60s and 70s Fahrenheit for nearly the entire nation latethis week.     Gas for Friday delivery at Henry Hub <NG-W-HH> rose 1 centon average to $3.87 per million British thermal units, aftersliding 2 cents on Wednesday to $3.86, its lowest average pricesince mid-March, according to Reuters data.    Last Friday, Hub cash gas slipped under $4 for the firsttime since April 5. A little less than three weeks ago, Hub cashgas rose to a 21-month high of $4.38.    A long, cold winter put a huge dent in inventories, and achilly early spring led to a slow start to the injection season.    But with milder temperatures covering most of the countrythis week, traders said heating demand has tapered off beforeheavy cooling loads begin, making further upside movesdifficult.    Thursday's Hub average remained below the May monthly indexof $4.16 but was still well above the year-ago price of $2.36.Cash prices bottomed out last year in late April at a 10-yearlow of $1.82.    Late deals firmed slightly, to 6 cents under the front-monthJune natural gas futures contract on the New York MercantileExchange, from deals done late Wednesday at an 8-centdiscount.    The nearby futures contract traded late up about 1 cent at$3.991.    In consuming regions, gas on the Transco pipeline at the NewYork citygate <NG-NYCZ6> was steady for a second straight day at$4.04, while Chicago gas <NG-CHGC> was 2 cents higher, also at$4.04.    Nuclear plant outages totaled 20,900 megawatts, or 21percent of U.S. capacity, up from 18,800 MW out on Wednesday anda five-year average outage rate of 20,200 MW, but down from21,400 MW out a year ago.         ANOTHER LARGER-THAN-EXPECTED BUILD, BUT STOCKS BELOW NORMAL    Thursday's gas storage report from the U.S. EnergyInformation Administration showed domestic inventories rose lastweek by 88 billion cubic feet, above Reuters poll estimates foran 83 bcf build, a year-ago gain of 30 bcf, and a five-yearaverage build of 69 bcf for that week.     But inventories, which started the injection season aboutthree weeks later than expected due to the cold spring, are at1.865 trillion cubic feet, more than 28 percent below last yearand 5 percent below the five-year average.    (Storage graphic:    Early injection estimates for next week's EIA report rangefrom 72 bcf to 108 bcf versus a 56 bcf build in the same weeklast year and a five-year average rise for that week of 83 bcf.    Traders awaited the next Baker Hughes gas drillingrig report, due Friday. Data last week showed the number of rigsdrilling for natural gas in the United States fell by 12 to an18-year low of 353.     EIA earlier this week raised its estimate for domesticnatural gas production in 2013, expecting output to be up about1 percent from 2012. It would be the third straight year ofrecord production.         Average prices at spot gas market points and previous dayprices follow (US$/mmBtu):                                      5/09/13             5/08/13          Henry Hub                           3.87                3.86                  New York citygate                   4.04                4.04                  Chicago citygate                    4.04                4.02                  Panhandle (mid-Continent)           3.76                3.76                  Northern at Demarcation  (Minn.)    3.91                3.91                  Southern California border          3.91                3.93                  Katy Hub (east Texas)               3.89                3.91                  Waha (west Texas)                   3.82                3.87                  Dominion-South (Appalachia region)  3.96                3.94                  Columbia TCO (Appalachia region)    3.97                3.96                        For more U.S. spot natural gas prices, click on <0#NG-US>        RELATED LINKS     - 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 ...........     - NYMEX Natural Gas Futures .................... <0#NG:>     - NYMEX Crude Oil Futures .......................<0#CL:> (Editing by John Wallace)