The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a net 63-Bcf withdrawal from natural gas inventories in the Lower 48 during the week ended March 23 that was below consensus expectations but above averages.
The market consensus ahead of the report's release called for a 72-Bcf drawdown from stocks, against respective year-ago and five-year average withdrawals of 58 Bcf and 46 Bcf.
The pull brought total U.S. working gas supply to 1,383 Bcf, or 672 Bcf below the year-ago level and 346 Bcf below the five-year average storage level of 1,729 Bcf.
May natural gas futures were up 5.8 cents at $2.756/MMBtu just ahead of the report's 10:30 a.m. ET release. Following the release, the contract held within the prerelease trading range from $2.698/MMBtu to $2.764/MMBtu and was last traded 4.7 cents higher at $2.745/MMBtu.
In the East, inventories were down 28 Bcf on the week at 242 Bcf, or 14.2% below the year-ago level. Storage levels in the Midwest were down 31 Bcf at 284 Bcf, or 41.9% below the year-ago level. In the Mountain region, storage levels were down 2 Bcf on the week at 88 Bcf, or 37.1% below the year-ago level, while in the Pacific region, storage levels were down 3 Bcf on the week at 166 Bcf, or 21.3% below the year-ago level. In the South Central region, where storage levels were up 1 Bcf on the week, stocks are at a deficit of 35.3% to a year earlier.
Working gas stocks in the South Central region totaled 603 Bcf, with 181 Bcf in salt cavern facilities and with 422 Bcf in non-salt cavern facilities. Working gas stocks were down 1 Bcf in salt cavern facilities and up 3 Bcf in non-salt cavern facilities since the previous week.
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