Natural gas inventories were unexpectedly higher in the recent week, according to Energy Information Administration data released on Thursday. The report sent prices plunging below the $4 mark.

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.

Natural gas prices plunged on the report. April-stamped natural gas futures fell to $3.984 per million British thermal units, down 3.46 cents on the session. Prices hit a weekly intraday low of $3.967 following the data's release at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Crude oil for May remained modestly higher at $53.38, up 61 cents on the day. Prices earlier hit as high as $54.66.

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