NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Natural gas storage levels rose last week but by less than analysts had anticipated, which turned natural gas futures positive Thursday and lifted the May contract by nearly 6%.
The Energy Information Administration said natural gas storage levels rose by 12 billion cubic feet in the week ended March 26, coming in lower than the expected range of 14 billion to 18 billion cubic feet, according to analysts polled by Platts.
Natural gas futures began the last trading session of the shortened week in the red, but quickly turned positive on news of the milder-than-expected increase. After slumping as low as $3.81 per million British thermal units, the May natural gas soared to $4.16 before settling up by 22 cents, or 5.6%, at $4.09 per million British thermal units.
As natural gas prices strengthened, so did shares of natural gas producers. Chesapeake Energy (CHK - Get Report), Devon Energy (DVN - Get Report), EOG Resources (EOG), and Anadarko Petroleum (APC - Get Report) all ended more than 2% higher. Gastar Exploration (GST - Get Report) soared 4.9%, to $5.10.Energy was one of the session's strongest performing sectors on a day that saw equities making broad gains on encouraging macroeconomic news.