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Supply levels push natural gas prices down

Natural gas prices continued to fall on Thursday.
By SANDY SHORE Published: March 9, 2012

Natural gas prices fell Thursday after springlike weather blanketed much of the country, raising expectations that demand will remain weak. At the same time, supplies have stayed well above year-ago levels.

The amount of natural gas in storage in the U.S. fell 80 billion cubic feet to 2.433 trillion cubic feet last week.

That figure is 48.3 percent more than the five-year average, the Energy Department said. Analysts had expected a decline between 82 billion cubic feet and 86 billion cubic feet, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill.

Natural gas fell 3 cents to finish at $2.27 per 1,000 cubic feet in New York. The price has fallen about 27 percent this year and is at the lowest level in a decade.

Oil, meanwhile, moved closer to $107 per barrel as traders continued to be concerned about tensions between Israel, the U.S. and Iran.

Natural gas stockpiles have expanded steadily this year as consumers and business owners have kept thermostats at lower temperatures during a mild winter. About a quarter of the nation's electricity is generated using natural gas.

At the same time, production is booming because energy companies are accessing underground reserves using newer drilling techniques. Some analysts speculate that the price could fall to $2 per 1,000 cubic feet or even lower if demand doesn't pick up significantly when air conditioners are turned on for the summer.

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