The price of natural gas plunged below $4 on Thursday in U.S. trading. Traders mulled the Energy Information Administration's weekly inventory report that showed an unexpected rise in stockpiles.
Natural gas for April delivery fell to $3.947 per million British thermal units, down 38.2 cents on the day. Prices touched as low as $3.889.
Data revealed natural gas stockpiles were up 3 billion cubic feet in the week ended March 20. Economists were looking for a drop of about 10 bcf, which is still well below the decline of about 49 bcf normally seen at this time of year. Working gas in storage was 1.654 trillion cubic feet, according to estimates.
In the East Region, stocks were down 13 billion cubic feet, inventories in the Producing Region were up 11 bcf and stocks in the West Region were up 5 bcf.
On the flip side, light sweet crude for May delivery climbed to $54.35, up $1.58 for the day. Oil hit as high as $54.66, its best mark since early January.
On the economic front, a Commerce Department report showed that fourth quarter gross domestic product fell by a revised 6.3 percent, compared to the preliminary estimate of a 6.2 percent decrease. Economists had been expecting GDP to be revised to show a somewhat steeper 6.6 percent contraction.
The U.S. Labor Department announced initial jobless claims rose to 652,000 for the week ended March 20th, compared to the previous week's level of 644,000. Meanwhile, people continuing to collect unemployment rose to 5.56 million in the most recent data, compared to the previous mark of 5.438 million.
At the pump, gasoline prices moved above the $2.00 mark, according to AAA. The average price of a regular gallon of gasoline in the U.S. was $2.009, compared to the month-ago mark of $1.90. A year ago, prices were at $3.261.
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