NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Natural gas futures ended flat, surrendering a bounce early in the session.
The May contract settled unchanged at $4.211 per million British thermal units. Earlier, it was rising 0.5% to $4.234, although that move came on low volume.
On Thursday "traders were caught short the market when those supportive numbers came out," Altavest Worldwide Trading analyst Jeff Pritchard said of the Energy Information Administration's report that inventory built up less than expected on a weekly basis. "Short covering probably took place, which pushed the market up momentarily, but didn't change the outlook fundamentals of the market in the long term. This would explain the lack of follow through ..."
Pritchard noted evidence that a technical consolidation pattern is developing, and said he'll be watching for the next catalyst that will drive prices higher.A Gelber & Associates report said natural gas got some price support earlier from near-term cool weather in the North and heat anticipated for early next week in the South. "Overall, the seasonal weather looks bearish to close out April, but few if any are taking short positions into the weekend." Natural gas plays were trading in mixed territory. Chesapeake Energy (CHK) was unchanged at $32.67; Westport Innovations (WPRT) was falling 0.5% to $24.72; Fuel Systems Solutions (FSYS) was adding 2.1% to $28.84; Devon Energy (DVN) was flat at $87.76; Newfield Exploration (NFX) was adding 1.6% to $71.31; Cheniere Energy (CQP) was losing 1.1% to $18.32; and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (KMP) was unchanged at $75.12.
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