Asian spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices dipped this week, remaining below $10 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) for the fourth week running, with a limited outlook for recovery due to tepid demand and strong inventories.

The average LNG price for March delivery into north-east Asia lost $0.10 this week to $9.50/mmBtu, industry sources estimated.

"The winter is slowly coming to an end, and traders are shifting their focus towards the filling season and the next winter," said Hans van Cleef, chief energy economist at PZ - Energy Research & Strategy.

"Although there is still a risk that a cold front could hit either Europe or Asia resulting in a jump in demand, this risk is diminishing rapidly," he added.

Some parts of north-east Asia has seen some demand, especially China, but this is generally expected to slow in the coming days on the back of the Lunar New Year holiday, said Samuel Good, head of LNG pricing at commodity pricing agency Argus.

Good added that north-east China is still expected to have a cold end to its heating season, with overnight temperatures from mid-February until at least late March set to remain several degrees Celsius below long-term averages, suggesting scope for a short delay to the typical end of the region's heating season in mid-March.

In Europe, benchmark Dutch gas prices eased to their lowest levels in two weeks as weather forecasts turned milder and Norwegian gas flows recovered after outages curbed supplies earlier this week.

The continent remains supported by forecasts of a milder end to winter than previously expected, strong LNG cargo availability and high European underground inventories, which are currently 67.87% full.

"With little else in the way of bullish signals, this could be seen as the return to softening prices in the coming days," said Dominic Gallagher, head of LNG broking at Tullett Prebon.

S&P Global Commodity Insights assessed its daily North West Europe LNG Marker (NWM) price benchmark for cargoes delivered in March on an ex-ship (DES) basis at $8.119/mmBtu on Feb. 8, a $0.62/mmBtu discount to the March gas price at the Dutch TTF hub.

Argus assessed the price at $8.200/mmBtu, while Spark Commodities assessed it at $8.172/mmBtu.

In the United States, natural gas prices plunged to a three-year low this week as production surged and mild winter weather depressed demand.

Spot LNG freight rates recorded a week-on-week increase for the first time since mid November, with Atlantic rates estimated at $54,500/day on Friday, and Pacific rates at $57,500/day, said Qasim Afghan, an analyst at Spark Commodities.

Afghan said the increase was partially due to the opening of the U.S. arbitrage (the cargo diversion from one market to another) to northeast Asia, coupled with increased voyage time from the diversion of cargoes unable to transit the Suez Canal.

(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Nina Chestney)