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Natural gas inventories increase less than expected

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a net 2-Bcf injection into natural gas inventories in the Lower 48 during the week that ended March 31, which was below market expectations.

The injection was a downside miss against the market consensus ahead of the report's release that called for a 9-Bcf build in stocks and against the 6-Bcf injection reported for the same week in 2016, and it was counter to the five-year average withdrawal of 13 Bcf.

The build brought total U.S. working gas supply to 2,051 Bcf, or 427 Bcf below the year-ago level and 265 Bcf above the five-year average storage level of 1,786 Bcf.

May natural gas futures were higher ahead of the data's release. Exchanged from $3.235/MMBtu to $3.299/MMBtu, the contract was 2.9 cents higher on the day at $3.295/MMBtu at 10:29 a.m. ET. Following the data's 10:30 a.m. ET release, the contract jumped to a $3.334/MMBtu high, while trading last 5.3 cents higher on the day at $3.319/MMBtu.

In the East, inventories were down 10 Bcf on the week at 268 Bcf, or 38.4% below the year-ago level. Storage levels in the Midwest were down 7 Bcf at 479 Bcf, or 12.8% below the year-ago level. In the Mountain region, storage levels were up 1 Bcf on the week to 142 Bcf, or 4.7% below the year-ago level, while in the Pacific region, storage levels were up 4 Bcf at 216 Bcf, or 18.5% below the year-ago level. In the South Central region, where storage levels were up a net 14 Bcf on the week, stocks are at a deficit of 12.5% to a year earlier.

Working gas stocks in the South Central region totaled 946 Bcf, with 295 Bcf in salt cavern facilities and 651 Bcf in non-salt cavern facilities. Working gas stocks were up 6 Bcf in salt cavern facilities and up 7 Bcf in non-salt cavern facilities since the previous week.

Market prices and included industry data are current as of the time of publication and are subject to change. For more detailed market data, including power and natural gas index prices, as well as forwards and futures, visit our Commodities Pages.