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March NYMEX gas sheds a cent to $2.582/MMBtu in cautious trade

Wednesday's open, in cautious trade amid the expectation of supportivenear-term storage data. Following a 4.2 cent advance in yesterday's session,the contract was down 1.2 cents at $2.582/MMBt at 7:15 am ET (1215 GMT).

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Cold weather that ramped up demand to start February is seen to havedriven a step higher in the rate of weekly storage withdrawals when the USEnergy Information Administration releases its next storage data on Thursday.Preliminary estimates call for a drawdown in the mid-170s Bcf to the low 180sBcf for the review week ended February 9, which would exceed both the 120 Bcfyear-ago pull and the 154 Bcf five-year-average withdrawal.

The week's data would come on the heels of well below-average storage drawsfor the past couple of weeks at 99 Bcf and 119 Bcf.

Warmer weather in store for the major heat-consuming regions in the eastern USspell diminished heating demand and a reduction in the amount of natural gasdrawn from underground storage facilities in the coming weeks, but changingweather further out feeds upside support for demand.

--Staff reports,

--Edited by Maurice Geller,