By Dan Murtaugh
U.S. natural gas futures extended gains to the highest level since January’s record short squeeze, after the U.S. government reported tighter-than-usual stockpiles for this time of year.
Inventories held in salt caverns and depleted aquifers grew 15 billion cubic feet last week, less then half the average gain for the period over the past five years, the Energy Information Administration said. While the number was in line with the median estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, stockpiles remain almost 18% below usual levels.
Tighter inventories and stronger exports have raised expectations for higher prices, with the calendar strip of futures for this year more than doubling from a year ago. That promises to raise already elevated power prices and U.S. inflation that’s already at the highest level since 1981.
The eastern half of the U.S. is expected to see below-normal temperatures from April 19-23, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Extra home-heating consumption could reduce excess supply that can be diverted into storage caverns during what’s normally the start of a period of weaker demand.
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