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Higher natural gas prices boost energy stocks

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rising natural gas prices helped natural gas-focused companies on Thursday.

Prices rose after a new government report showed that the amount of natural gas in storage shrank more than expected last week, although inventories are still at higher-than-usual levels.

Natural gas prices were up 10 cents to $3.82 per 1,000 cubic feet in New York. They're at their highest levels since December.

Natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp. rose 60 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $22 in midday trading. Natural gas exploration and production company WPX Energy Inc. was up 82 cents, or 5.2 percent, to $16.82. Noble Corp. rose $1.15, or 3.2 percent, to $36.87, and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. rose $1.68, or 2.6 percent, to $67.44.

Driller Helmerich & Payne Inc. rose $2.12, or 3.4 percent, to $65.42. Producer and distributor EQT Corp. rose $1.99, or 3.1 percent, to $67.34, and explorer and producer Southwestern Energy Co. rose 68 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $38.47. QEP Resources Inc. rose 72 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $31.77.