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Houston — The NYMEX March natural gas futures contract rose Wednesday after three straight sessions of declines on the eve of the release of the US Energy Information Administration's weekly natural gas storage report.

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The contract settled at $2.925/MMBtu, up 2 cents from Tuesday, after trading between $2.917/MMBtu and $2.994/MMBtu over the session.

The EIA on Thursday is expected to estimate a 126-Bcf withdrawal of gas from storage for the reporting week ended February 10, according to a consensus of analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts.

The prompt month has fallen some 24.3 cents since it closed at $3.168/MMBtu on February 1, according to S&P Global Platts data.

Compared with the prior two years, however, the 2017 March contract has so far averaged a higher daily close of $3.075/MMBtu, while the 2016 March contract averaged $1.93/MMBtu and 2015 March averaged $2.755/MMBtu.

The contract's price drop this month has been due largely to shifting weather patterns, and markets could resume a downward shift given that somewhat bearish weather remains on the horizon for much of the US.

The National Weather Service forecast below-normal temperatures in the western one-third of the continental US over the next six to 10 days, and above-normal temperatures for the eastern two-thirds of the country.

That bearish forecast for the eastern US will put pressure on overall US demand. Platts Analytics' Bentek Energy forecast US demand to shrink almost 10 Bcf over the next seven days to 76.2 Bcf, compared with a February 15 estimate of 86 Bcf.

The NWS' eight- to 14-day forecast indicates cooler weather will move east toward the Rockies, but the high-demand areas in the eastern US will continue to see above-average temperatures. As cold weather moves east, US demand is expected to rise to 82.7 Bcf, according to Platts Analytics, still below the prior seven-day average of 83.47 Bcf.

The NYMEX settlement is considered preliminary and subject to change until a final settlement price is posted at 7 pm EST (2400 GMT).

--Art Fresquez,
--Edited by Lisa Miller,