Natural Gas Price Stumbles as Bitter Cold Moves East

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported Thursday morning that U.S. natural gas stocks decreased by 206 billion cubic feet for the week ending December 29. Analysts were expecting a storage withdrawal of between 205 billion to 228 billion cubic feet. The five-year average for the week is a withdrawal of 99 billion cubic feet, and last year’s storage withdrawal for the week totaled 76 billion cubic feet. Natural gas inventories fell by 112 billion cubic feet in the week ending December 22.

Natural gas futures for February delivery traded up about 0.8% in advance of the EIA’s report, at around $3.03 per million BTUs and slipped to around $3.00 shortly afterward.

A strong winter storm has begun hammering the East Coast with gusty winds, snow and low temperatures. Temperatures are also expected to be cold in the South. Frigid weather in the upper Midwest and northern Rockies also will hang around. Only the West Coast is expected to have mild weather. Overall, demand for natural gas continues to be in the “very high” range.

Total U.S. stockpiles fell week over week to 5.8% below last year’s level and are now also 5.8% below the five-year average.

The EIA reported that U.S. working stocks of natural gas totaled about 3.126 trillion cubic feet, around 192 billion cubic feet below the five-year average of 3.318 trillion cubic feet and 192 billion cubic feet below last year’s total for the same period. Working gas in storage totaled 3.318 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 down less than 0.1%, at $86.69 in a 52-week range of $76.05 to $90.30.
  • Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) traded down about 0.1%, at $4.06 in a 52-week range of $3.41 to $7.29.
  • EOG Resources Inc. (NYSE: EOG) traded down less than 0.1% to $110.92. The 52-week range is $81.99 to $111.83.

In addition, the United States Natural Gas ETF (NYSEARCA: UNG) traded up about 0.3%, at $5.93 in a 52-week range of $5.10 to $8.75.

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