U.S. natgas futures hit 2012 high ahead of storage data

By Eileen Houlihan

NEW YORK | Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:12am EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures rose more than 2 percent early on Thursday to their highest level of 2012 ahead of weekly inventory data.

Traders said a large number of nuclear power plant outages has helped boost near-term demand, but mild autumn weather across much of the nation could limit more upside.

Autumn injections into inventories are also poised to pick up as weather loads fade, with this week's report expected to show the first near-seasonal build in a month and only the second in the last 21 weeks.

Most traders and analysts expect weekly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to show a build of about 76 billion cubic feet when it is released Thursday at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT), a Reuters poll showed.

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