Natural Gas Advances to 8-Week High Before Stockpile Report

Natural gas futures climbed to an eight-week high in New York on speculation that government data today will show that inventories of the fuel rose by less than average last week, leaving supplies at an 11-year seasonal low.

Gas gained as much as 1.6 percent. A report due at 10:30 a.m. in Washington may say stockpiles increased by 44 billion cubic feet last week, compared with the five-year average gain of 47 billion, according to the median of 17 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Supplies totaled 850 billion as of April 11, the lowest for that period since 2003, government data show.

“This storage report is going to be a reminder that producers have a long way to go to get back to normal inventories,” said Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. “The market is leaning toward the upside.”

Natural gas for May delivery rose 4.2 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $4.772 per million British thermal units at 9:02 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange after earlier climbing to $4.805 per million Btu, the highest intraday price since Feb. 26. Volume for all futures traded was 33 percent below the 100-day average. The futures are up 13 percent this year.

Williams Cos. (WMB) halted natural gas supplies to interstate pipelines from its Opal plant in Wyoming, a major processing point and pricing hub for the fuel in the western U.S., after an explosion that triggered a town-wide evacuation.

Natural gas gathering from surrounding areas stopped after the blast, which occurred at about 2 p.m. local time yesterday, Williams said in a statement. No injuries were reported and an investigation into the cause of the incident will start when it’s safe to return to the plant, which was recently processing about 1 billion cubic feet a day, according to the company.

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