Investing.com - Natural gas futures were up sharply during U.S. morning hours on Thursday, hitting a five-week high after a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed natural gas supplies fell more-than-expected last week.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas futures for delivery in February traded at USD3.502 per million British thermal units during U.S. morning trade, up 1.9% on the day.
It earlier rose by as much as 2.35% to trade at a session high of USD3.518 per million British thermal units, the strongest level since December 10.
The January contract traded at USD3.431 prior to the release of the U.S. Energy Information Administration report.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that natural gas storage in the U.S. in the week ended January 11 fell by 148 billion cubic feet, compared to expectations for a decline of 136 billion cubic feet.
Inventories fell by 89 billion cubic feet in the same week a year earlier, while the five-year average change for the week is a decline of 144 billion cubic feet.
Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 3.168 trillion cubic feet as of last week. Stocks were 147 billion cubic feet less than last year at this time and 316 billion cubic feet above the five-year average of 2.852 trillion cubic feet for this time of year.
The report showed that in the East Region, stocks were 92 billion cubic feet above the five-year average, following net withdrawals of 86 billion cubic feet.
Stocks in the Producing Region were 156 billion cubic feet above the five-year average of 957 billion cubic feet, after a net withdrawal of 39billion cubic feet.
Meanwhile, updated weather forecasts released earlier in the day continued to call for below-normal readings for most of the Eastern half of the U.S. in the next six-to-ten days.
Natural gas prices have closely tracked weather forecasts in recent weeks, as traders try to gauge the impact of shifting forecasts on winter heating demand.
Bullish speculators are betting on the cold weather increasing winter demand for the heating fuel. The heating season from November through March is the peak demand period for U.S. gas consumption.
Nearly 50% of all U.S. households use gas for heating.
Elsewhere on the NYMEX, light sweet crude oil futures for delivery in March jumped 1.4% to trade at USD95.97 a barrel, while heating oil for February delivery added 0.6% to trade at USD3.016 per gallon.
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