Natural gas rallied on Thursday in U.S. trading. Traders mulled the Energy Information Administration report that showed inventories were flat in the recent week.

May-dated natural gas futures rallied to $3.782 per million British thermal units, up 8.7 cents on the session. Prices reached as high as $3.95.

The EIA reported natural gas stockpiles were unchanged in the week ended March 27. Working gas in storage was 1.654 trillion cubic feet, according to estimates. Stocks were 402 Bcf higher than last year at this time and 303 Bcf above the 5-year average of 1,351 Bcf.

In the East Region, stocks were down 23 billion cubic feet, stocks in the Producing Region were up 22 bcf and inventories in the West Region were up 1 bcf.

In other energy trading, light sweet crude for May delivery rallied to $52.64 per barrel, up $4.25 for the session. Prices touched as high as $52.06 on improved demand prospects as hopes the G20 summit will help pull the world out of the economic crisis.

Elsewhere on the economic front, Labor Department report showed that initial jobless claims rose to 669,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 657,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 650,000 from the 652,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Meanwhile, factory orders jumped 1.8% in February after six straight months of declines. Economists expected a more modest gain of 1.5%.

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