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 21. That compared with an expected drop of 50 billion to 54 billion cubic feet anticipated by analysts. Natural gas futures prices were trading about 0.5% higher in advance of the EIA report, at around $4.42 per million BTUs, and rose slightly to $4.46 immediately following the report.
While there were expectations of a warming trend early next week in the heavily populated northeastern United States, the weather should turn to that mix of cooler and warmer that is the very definition of spring.
The country's natural gas supply fell below 1 trillion cubic feet two weeks ago for the first time since 2003. The draws on storage are raising concerns that the available gas may not be enough to meet demand until new storage injections begin in late April and May.
The EIA reported that U.S. working stocks of natural gas totaled 896 billion cubic feet, about 926 billion cubic feet below the five-year average of 1.82 trillion cubic feet. Working gas in storage totaled 1.8 trillion cubic feet for the same period a year ago. Natural gas inventories continue to drop further below the bottom of the five-year range.
Here is how stocks of the largest U.S. natural gas producers reacted to the EIA report:
Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the country's largest producer of natural gas, was up about 0.8%, at $95.48 in a 52-week range of $84.79 to $101.74.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) was up about 3.4%, at $25.69 in a 52-week range of $18.21 to $29.06.
EOG Resources Inc. (EOG) was up 1.5% to $15.05. The 52-week range is $112.05 to $195.40. The high was posted earlier in the morning.
The U.S. Natural Gas Fund (UNG) was up about 1.9%, at $24.93 in a 52-week range of $16.59 to $27.89. The Market Vectors Oil Services ETF (OIH) was up about 1.3%, at $49.79 in 52-week range of $39.42 to $51.11. The first fund tracks spot prices; the second includes major drillers and services companies.