Natural gas stocks decline more than expected

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NEW YORK (AP) — Natural gas stockpile levels fell more than expected last week, the government said Thursday.

The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that natural gas inventories held in underground storage in the lower 48 states dropped by 266 billion cubic feet to about 2.85 trillion cubic feet for the week ended Jan. 8.

Analysts expected a draw of between 253 billion and 258 billion cubic feet, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

The inventory level was 4.4 percent above the five-year average of about 2.73 trillion cubic feet, and 3.7 percent above last year’s storage level of about 2.75 trillion cubic feet, according to the government data.

Natural gas prices fell 16 cents to $5.573 per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange.