The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported Thursday morning that U.S. natural gas stocks decreased by 209 billion cubic feet for the week ending December 16. Analysts were expecting a storage decline of between 197 and 210 billion cubic feet. The five-year average for the week is a withdrawal of around 101 billion cubic feet, and last year’s storage decline for the week totaled 32 billion cubic feet. Natural gas inventories fell by 147 billion cubic feet in the week ending December 9.
Natural gas futures for January delivery traded up around 1.3% in advance of the EIA’s report, at around $3.60 per million BTUs, and traded roughly flat after the data release. Natural gas closed at $3.54 per million BTUs on Wednesday, after posting a five-day high of $3.63 earlier in the day. The 52-week range for natural gas is $2.50 to $3.78. One year ago the price for a million BTUs was around $2.75.
Demand for natural gas in the week ahead is expected to drop as warmer temperatures spread across most of the country, especially in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Overall, demand is expected to moderate to near- or slightly-below normal levels for the coming week.
Stockpiles have now dropped to 5.9% below their levels of a year ago but remain 2.2% above the five-year average.
The EIA reported that U.S. working stocks of natural gas totaled about 3.597 trillion cubic feet, around 78 billion cubic feet above the five-year average of 3.519 trillion cubic feet and 229 billion cubic feet below last year’s total for the same period. Working gas in storage totaled 3.823 trillion cubic feet for the same period a year ago.
Here’s how share prices of the largest U.S. natural gas producers reacted to today’s report:
Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM), the country’s largest producer of natural gas, traded essentially flat at $90.30 in a 52-week range of $71.55 to $95.55.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) traded up about 1.1% to $7.51. The stock’s 52-week range is $1.50 to $8.20.
EOG Resources Inc. (NYSE: EOG) traded up about 0.7% to $103.24. The 52-week range is $57.15 to $109.37.
Moreover, the United States Natural Gas ETF (NYSEMKT: UNG) traded down about 0.7%, at $8.94 in a 52-week range of $5.78 to $9.64.