Natural Gas Price Flat After Lower-Than-Expected Inventory Decline

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported Thursday morning that U.S. natural gas stocks decreased by 57 billion cubic feet for the week ending March 2.

Analysts were expecting a storage withdrawal between 54 billion and 68 billion cubic feet. The five-year average for the week is a withdrawal of 129 billion cubic feet, and last year’s storage decrease for the week totaled 68 billion cubic feet. Natural gas inventories fell by 78 billion cubic feet in the week ending February 16.

Natural gas futures for April delivery traded down about 0.7% in advance of the EIA’s report, at around $2.75 per million BTUs, and it remained essentially unchanged shortly after the report was released.

The forecast for overall natural gas demand next week has moved to the “high” range as cold weather is forecast for the heavily populated east until the weekend, with more to follow next week. Weather in the west is expected to be milder.

Total U.S. stockpiles fell week over week to 29.5% below last year’s level and are now 15.6% below the five-year average.

The EIA reported that U.S. working stocks of natural gas totaled about 1.625 trillion cubic feet at the end of last week, around 300 billion cubic feet below the five-year average of 1.925 trillion cubic feet and 680 billion cubic feet below last year’s total for the same period. Working gas in storage totaled 2.305 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 up about 0.1% to $74.35, in a 52-week range of $73.56 to $89.30.
  • Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) traded down about 0.7%, at $3.02 in a 52-week range of $2.53 to $6.59.
  • EOG Resources Inc. (NYSE: EOG) traded down about 0.7% to $100.14. The 52-week range is $81.99 to $119.00.

Furthermore, the United States Natural Gas ETF (NYSEARCA: UNG) traded down about 1.1%, at $22.96 in a 52-week range of $20.40 to $31.72.

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