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The NYMEX front-month natural gas contract edged 3.7 cents higherWednesday to settle at $3.187/MMBtu, chipping into Tuesday's near 9-centdecline ahead of the weekly US Energy Information Administration natural gasstorage report.

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According to Platts Analytics' Bentek Energy, US demand is expected tosurge 2 Bcf day on day Thursday, reaching about 65 Bcf/d, with a large portionof coming from an increase in residential/commercial demand in the Northeast.

Looking ahead, prospects for weaker US demand in the coming weeks andrestrictions on NET Mexico, impacting exports into the Mexican market, mayprove difficult for the prompt month to continue to trudge higher over thenext two weeks.

Forecasts through April 26 maintain that US demand will hover near 64Bcf/d, below the current April month to date of 65.5 Bcf/d, and a stark 8.2Bcf/d below year-ago levels.

The National Weather Service projects the eight- to 14-day temperatureoutlook to mirror more immediate weather outlooks, with "near to below normaltemperatures [being] favored over the northern [continental US]," with a highdegree of confidence of above average temperatures over the southern half ofUS.

In addition, CENEGAS announced that from April 10 through 21, NET Mexicoflows through the Agua Dulce compressor station will be restricted in a rangeof 570 MMcf/d to 1.22 Bcf/d.

In the more immediate, preliminary projections formulated by Plattsexpects an injection between 9 Bcf-13 Bcf into storage stocks, bringing totalinventory to nearly 2.064 Tcf, about 416 Bcf below year-ago levels.

Even as 2017 to-date US demand sits 5.1 Bcf/d below the 2016 year to datelevel of 86.3 Bcf/d, a 2.3 Bcf/d surge in LNG feedgas and Mexican exports from2016 combined with a 1.9 Bcf/d dip in total US dry production and nationalstorage stocks below year ago levels has engendered a tighter supply balance,helping to buoy the prompt-month contract compared with year-ago levels.

--Ryan Ouwerkerk,

--Edited by Richard Rubin,