The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported Thursday morning that U.S. natural gas stocks decreased by 150 billion cubic feet for the week ending March 17. Analysts were expecting a storage decline of 153 billion cubic feet. The five-year average for the week is a withdrawal of around 21 billion cubic feet, and last year’s storage increase for the week totaled 13 billion cubic feet. Natural gas inventories fell by 53 billion cubic feet in the week ending March 10.
Natural gas futures for April delivery traded up by about 1% in advance of the EIA’s report, at around $3.04 per million BTUs, and traded at $3.02 shortly after the data release. Natural gas closed at $3.01 per million BTUs on Wednesday, below a weekly high posted Tuesday of $3.09. The 52-week range for natural gas is $2.56 to $3.65. One year ago the price for a million BTUs was around $2.60.
A late winter storm last week sent temperatures plunging in the Northeast and Midwest, causing a sharp spike in demand. Cooler temperatures are expected in the Great Lakes and Northeast regions again for the next few days, but milder weather over most of the country is in the weekend forecast. Another cooler system is expected later next week, keeping demand for natural gas in the moderate range.
Stockpiles fell week over week to 16% below last year’s level, and are now 14.6% above the five-year average.
The EIA reported that U.S. working stocks of natural gas totaled about 2.092 trillion cubic feet, around 266 billion cubic feet above the five-year average of 1.826 trillion cubic feet and 399 billion cubic feet below last year’s total for the same period. Working gas in storage totaled 2.491 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 this latest report:
Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM), the country’s largest producer of natural gas, traded down about 0.1% to $81.70, in a 52-week range of $80.31 to $95.55.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) traded up about 0.6% to $5.03. The stock’s 52-week range is $3.53 to $8.20.
EOG Resources Inc. (NYSE: EOG) traded down about 0.3% to $94.34. The 52-week range is $69.66 to $109.37.
The United States Natural Gas ETF (NYSEMKT: UNG) traded up about 0.6%, at $7.34 in a 52-week range of $6.29 to $9.74.