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Natural gas company shares jump on supply data

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of companies that drill for natural gas jumped Thursday after the government said that U.S. supplies of the fuel dropped last week.

Any sign that the glut of natural gas in the U.S. is dwindling is a good sign for companies like Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Southwestern Energy Co. Their revenue declined sharply last year as natural gas prices plunged to a decade low around $2 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reported that natural gas in storage shrank by 146 billion cubic feet to 2.083 trillion cubic feet in the week ended March 1. Analysts expected a draw of 130 billion to 134 billion cubic feet. Natural gas supplies are now 15 percent below year-ago levels.

Chesapeake shares rose 72 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $20.46 in afternoon trading. The company helped set off a boom in natural gas production last decade, but now finds itself selling off assets to bring in cash as revenue declines because of low gas prices. It's selling most of its holdings in Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a builder of natural gas refueling stations, according to a Clean Energy filing late Wednesday.

Southwestern Energy shares rose $1.13, or 3.1 percent, to $37.36 after earlier setting a 15-month high of $37.55.

Encana Corp. gained 79 cents, or 4.3 percent, to $19.07. Range Resources Corp. added $1.45 to $79.08. Cabot Oil & Gas rose $2.44, or 3.9 percent, to $64.66. The shares set an all-time closing high of $63.40 on Friday.