MARKET WATCH
Gas prices higher after storage withdrawal

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Mar. 31 -- Natural gas futures prices ended slightly higher Mar. 30 on the New York Mercantile Exchange following a larger-than-expected storage withdraw reported by the US Energy Information Administration.

EIA reported a withdrawal of 104 bcf, above the consensus withdrawal estimate of 79-82 bcf. Working gas in storage totaled 1,705 bcf, about 459 bcf above last year's levels at this time.

"Traders are now firmly focused on what will happen during the storage injection season," said analysts at Enerfax Daily. "With such a surplus, only a hot summer and an active hurricane season can avoid an all-time record to start next winter of 3.5 tcf or higher."

Meanwhile, supply concerns related to the summer driving season and the retirement of the gasoline oxygenate additive methyl tertiary butyl ether lifted gasoline futures prices despite refiners' churning out more gasoline after bringing operations back online from seasonal maintenance, analysts at Raymond James & Associates Inc. said.

Energy prices
Natural gas futures for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange ended 3.1¢ higher Mar. 30 to settle at $7.487/MMbtu. The June contract gained 3.3¢ to settle at $7.674/MMbtu.

The May contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes rose 70¢ to $67.15/bbl Mar. 30 on NYMEX. The June contract shot up 86¢ to $68.33/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate gained 75¢ to $67.21/bbl.

Gasoline for April delivery climbed by 4.15¢ to $1.9957/gal on NYMEX. Heating oil for the same month gained 3.23¢ to $1.8843/gal.

In London, the May IPE contract for North Sea Brent crude increased by 91¢ to $66.46/bbl. Gas oil for April was up by $7.50 to $583.00/tonne.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of 11 benchmark crudes gained 69¢ to reach $60.64/bbl.

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