The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported Thursday morning that U.S. natural gas stocks decreased by 250 billion cubic feet for the week ending February 14. That compared with an expected drop of 248 to 252 billion cubic feet anticipated by analysts. Natural gas futures prices were trading about 1% lower in advance of the EIA report, at around $6.09 per million BTUs, and slipped to around $5.94 immediately following the report.
Natural gas prices rose to a five-year high near $6.15 per million BTUs Wednesday, up almost $0.50 since last week's inventory report. Forecasts call for continued cold weather and snowy conditions in the Midwest and Northeast. Natural gas storage levels could even fall to below a trillion cubic feet by the end of the winter heating season in March, according to a report at MarketWatch. Thursday's drop was in line with expectations, dampening what might have been a sharper price increase.
The EIA reported that U.S. working stocks of natural gas totaled 1.44 trillion cubic feet, about 741 billion cubic feet below the five-year average of 2.18 trillion cubic feet. Working gas in storage totaled 2.42 trillion cubic feet for the same period a year ago. Natural gas inventories are dropping further below the bottom of the five-year range.
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Here is how stocks of the largest U.S. natural gas producers reacted to this report:
Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the country's largest producer of natural gas, was up about 0.8%, at $94.74 in a 52-week range of $84.79 to $101.74.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) was up 0.2%, at $26.44 in a 52-week range of $18.21 to $29.06.
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EOG Resources Inc. (EOG) was up 0.9%, at $180.54. The 52-week range is $112.05 to $188.30.
The U.S. Natural Gas Fund (UNG) was down about 0.6%, at $26.76 in a 52-week range of $16.59 to $27.58. The Market Vectors Oil Services ETF (OIH) was up 0.4%, at $47.77 in 52-week range of $39.42 to $51.11. The first fund tracks spot prices; the second includes major drillers and services companies.