Natural Gas Futures Decline on Supply Gain


"Without economic data to support it, natural gas isn't going anywhere right now."

Natural gas futures declined in New York after a government report showed U.S. inventories increased more than analysts anticipated.

Stockpiles gained 31 billion cubic feet in the week ended April 2 to 1.669 trillion cubic feet, the Energy Department said today. Analysts forecast a rise of 28 billion. An unexpected rise in the number of Americans filing initial jobless claims also weighed on futures.

"You are increasing supply at a time when you don't need it," said Cameron Horwitz, an analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. The stockpile gain "suggests that industrial demand might be a little bit weaker than people had assumed."

Natural gas for May delivery fell 9.9 cents, or 2.5%, to $3.92 per million Btu at 12:07 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The futures were trading at $3.976 before the report was released. Gas has fallen 30% this year.

Inventories last week were 12% above the five-year average, wider than an 11% surplus a week earlier.

Gas futures fell to $3.81 per million Btu on April 1, and touched a three-week high of $4.334 on April 6.

Prices may move in "a trading range between $3.75 and $4.30 between now and June," said Michael Rose of Angus Jackson Inc. "Without economic data to support it, natural gas isn't going anywhere right now."

Industrial demand will probably increase 6% this year, said Horwitz. "But that's really just a function of rebound from last year's anemic level. . ."

The number of gas rigs working in the U.S. increased to 949 last week, up 43% from July, according to Baker Hughes Inc.

"We may get some support at the $3.81 level," Horowitz said, "but if you continue to put rigs to work, potentially you could break below that level."

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