Natural gas closed higher for a fourth time in five sessions on Friday. The rally has moved off a multi-year low.
May-stamped natural gas futures finished at $3.801 per million British thermal units, up 1.9 cents for the session. Prices touched as high as $3.84 earlier in the session.
For the week, natural gas prices finished up 6.4 cents per million btu to recoup some of their recent losses. Last week, prices plunged more than 50 cents amid ongoing demand concerns.
On Thursday, the Energy Information Administration 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.
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.
In other energy trading, crude oil for May delivery finished at $52.46 per barrel, down 18 cents for the day. Prices touched as low as $51.02 earlier in the day.
On the economic front, a Labor Department report showed that non-farm payroll employment fell by 663,000 jobs in March following an unrevised decrease of 651,000 jobs in February. The drop in jobs came roughly in line with economists' expectations of a decrease of 658,000 levels.
With the continued decrease in jobs, the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March from 8.1 percent in the previous month, in line with expectations. With the increase, the unemployment rate rose to its highest level since November of 1983.
Later in the morning, the Institute for Supply Management said its non-manufacturing index fell to 40.8 in March from 41.6 in February, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in the service sector. The decrease came as a surprise to economists, who had expected the index to edge up to 42.0.
At the pump, AAA reported a regular gallon of gasoline averaged $2.041 in the U.S. This is higher than the month-ago mark of $1.933 but well-below the year-ago level of $3.289.
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