American utilities are facing the highest natural-gas prices in years as they build stockpiles for winter. The reason: Exporters are sending more gas than ever to countries starved for the fuel.

Pipelines to Mexico and Canada and tankers traveling to Europe and Asia have moved record amounts of U.S. gas out of the country this year as parts of the world fall short of supplies. American frackers, meanwhile, are holding the line on new drilling as investors pressure them to maintain capital discipline and return money to shareholders.

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