HOUSTON (Dow Jones)--Natural-gas futures ended lower Wednesday as a mild weather outlook and the threat of a storm-related supply disruption diminished.

Natural gas for October delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 10.6 cents, or 3.76%, lower at $2.715 a million British thermal units - the lowest settlement since August 2002. The front-month contract sank as low as $2.709/MMBtu in earlier trading.

Jim Ritterbusch, president of the energy advisory firm Ritterbusch and Associates, said that the lack of a storm threat or hot weather were weighing on prices Wednesday.

"We are just getting no help at all from the storm factor, which is causing evaporation of the storm premium," Ritterbusch said, noting that temperatures were generally turning milder as well.

Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center were tracking Tropical Storm Erika, a poorly organized system, near the Leeward Islands.

The storm was not expected Wednesday to go on and threaten the energy infrastructure in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

Jason Setree, a meteorologist with the private forecasting firm Commodity Weather Group, said the storm "was not looking too healthy right now."

Analysts and traders closely monitor storm activity in the Gulf that can disrupt gas supplies. Natural gas production from the Gulf accounts for about 11% of domestic output.

The National Weather Service forecast for Sept. 9 to Sept. 15 calls for above-normal temperatures in the Northeast, along the East Coast and in the Midwest. But those forecasts were not expected to spur additional demand for natural gas-fired power for air conditioning because temperatures were becoming more moderate as fall approached, analysts said.

Analysts and traders are also awaiting the Thursday release of a U.S. government report on natural gas storage. The report is expected to show a storage levels grew by 65 billion cubic feet for the week ended Aug. 28, according to the average of estimates in a Dow Jones Newswires survey.

Storage levels stand at a surplus relative to both last year and the five-year average. Many analysts expect that natural gas storage will reach record levels or even test storage capacity before the winter heating season begins.

Allen Rather, an independent energy analyst in Victoria Texas said that without a supply disruption, "the bears are in control here until we get through injection season."


FUTURES SETTLEMENT NET CHANGE
Nymex Oct $2.715 -10.6c
Nymex Nov $3.869 +0.1c
Nymex Dec $4.685 -1.2c

CASH HUB RANGE PREVIOUS DAY
Henry Hub $2.22-$2.32 $2.29-$2.45
Transco 65 $2.20-$2.26 $2.28-$2.36
Tex East M3 $2.43-$2.51 $2.51-$2.58
Transco Z6 $2.43-$2.50 $2.49-$2.59
SoCal $2.44-$2.64 $2.57-$2.66
El Paso Perm $2.24-$2.32 $2.35-$2.50
El Paso SJ $2.19-$2.26 $2.29-$2.37
Waha $2.27-$2.35 $2.38-$2.48
Katy $2.22-$2.32 $2.30-$2.40


-By Jason Womack, Dow Jones Newswires; 713-547-9201; jason.womack@dowjones.com