The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a net 43-Bcf withdrawal from natural gas inventories in the Lower 48 during the week ended March 24 that was just below market expectations but well above historical averages.
The withdrawal was a downside miss against the market consensus ahead of the report's release that called for a 44-Bcf draw from stocks, but was above both the 19-Bcf withdrawal reported for the same week in 2016 and the five-year average withdrawal of 27 Bcf.
The draw brought total U.S. working gas supply to 2,049 Bcf, or 423 Bcf below the year-ago level and 250 Bcf above the five-year average storage level of 1,799 Bcf.
May natural gas, in its first day as the lead contract, was trading lower ahead of the data's release. Exchanged from $3.172/MMBtu to $3.228/MMBtu, the contract was 4.0 cents lower on the day at $3.191/MMBtu at 10:29 a.m. ET. Following the data's 10:30 a.m. ET release, the contract extended the downside to a $3.141/MMBtu low, before retracing losses to move 1.6 cents lower at $3.215/MMBtu at last glance.
In the East, inventories were down 31 Bcf on the week at 278 Bcf, or 37.0% below the year-ago level. Storage levels in the Midwest were down 20 Bcf at 486 Bcf, or 12.7% below the year-ago level. In the Mountain region, storage levels were up 4 Bcf on the week to 141 Bcf, or 4.1% below the year-ago level, while in the Pacific region, storage levels were up 4 Bcf at 212 Bcf, or 19.1% below the year-ago level. In the South Central region, where storage levels were unchanged on the week, stocks are at a deficit of 12.4% to a year earlier.
Working gas stocks in the South Central region totaled 932 Bcf, with 289 Bcf in salt cavern facilities and with 644 Bcf in non-salt cavern facilities. Working gas stocks were down 6 Bcf in salt cavern facilities and up 7 Bcf in non-salt cavern facilities since the previous week.
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