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NYMEX April natural gas inches higher after largest March storage pull in five years

Houston — The NYMEX April natural gas futures contract increased 3.5 cents Thursday after the US Energy Information Administration reported the largest March storage drawdown in five years in the week that ended March 8.

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On Thursday, the NYMEX April natural gas futures contract settled at $2.855/MMBtu, up 3.5 cents from Wednesday's close.

April traded between $2.824/MMBtu and $2.857/MMBtu.

The EIA announced a 204-Bcf withdrawal for the week that ended March 8, which, although slightly below the 208 Bcf expected by a consensus of analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts, was the biggest March pull in five years.

Responses to the survey ranged from a pull of 195 Bcf to one of 220 Bcf.

The latest pull is another larger-than-average drawdown as colder-than-normal weather in February lingered into the beginning of March and reduced storage volumes at a rapid pace.

The withdrawal was within the five-year-range and cut stocks to 1.186 Tcf. The deficit to the five-year average widened to 569 Bcf, and the deficit to stocks this time last year expanded to 359 Bcf.

The draw left stocks 32% below the five-year average, but its impact on prices was inhibited by milder weather looming in the forecast.

The US National Weather Service projects the end of winter has arrived as average temperatures are expected for the Pacific Coast and the Southeast accompanied by higher-than-average temperatures in the Midcontinent.

S&P Global Platts Analytics projects injection season will start in two to three weeks, when there may be some decrease in the storage deficit.

The NYMEX settlement price is considered preliminary and subject to change until a final settlement price is posted at 7 pm EDT (2300 GMT).

-- Isabel Milton, Isabel.Milton@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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