Natural gas prices inched lower on Wednesday in U.S. trading. Investors awaited the Energy Information Administration's inventory report tomorrow.
May-dated natural gas fell to $4.329 per million British thermal units, down 1.8 cents on the session. Prices had been trending higher for about a week.
The EIA will release its inventory data at 10:30 a.m. ET. Experts are expecting only a modest decline in stockpiles, less than the average drop of 49 billion cubic feet for this time of year. Last week's data showed inventories declined by 30 billion cubic feet in the week ended March 13. Working gas in storage was 1.651 trillion cubic feet, according to EIA estimates.
In other energy trading, crude oil for May delivery dropped to $52.77 a barrel, down $1.21. Oil slipped as low as $51.86 after touching as high as $54.18 earlier in the day.
U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased 3.3 million barrels in the week ended March 20. Analysts were expecting a rise of about 1.2 million barrels. The build is the 22nd in 26 weeks.At 356.6 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.
Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.1 million barrels last week, and are in the upper half of the average range. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 1.6 million barrels.
On the economic front, the Commerce Department released a report showing new home sales rose 4.7 percent to an annual rate of 337,000 in February from an upwardly revised January rate of 322,000. The results surprised economists, who had been expecting sales to fall to 300,000 from the 309,000 originally reported for the previous month.
Additionally, industry data released earlier showed that mortgage application volume rose over 32 percent last week, as low mortgage rates on the heels of the Fed's decision to buy Treasury securities encouraged both the purchase and refinancing of mortgages.
Earlier in the day, the Commerce Department released a report revealing durable goods orders jumped 3.4 percent in February after falling by a revised 7.3 percent in January. Economists had been expecting durable goods orders to fall by 2.5 percent compared to the 4.5 percent decrease that had been reported for the previous month.
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