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Natural Gas Jumps Almost 3 Pct., Oil Up Slightly

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Natural gas rose 3 percent, to the highest level since November, as the government said supplies of the fuel are nearly 20 percent below year-ago levels.

Oil rose slightly after positive U.S. jobs data, while the average price for a gallon of gasoline slipped back to $3.70.

Natural gas futures gained 13 cents, or 3.6 percent, to finish at $3.81 per 1,000 cubic feet. The government reported that natural gas in storage shrank by 145 billion cubic feet to 1.938 trillion cubic feet for the week ended March 8. That's 18.5 percent below last year's level, although still 11 percent above the five-year average. Booming production created a glut that last year dropped natural gas to a decade low price below $2.

The price for natural gas has declined about 17 percent in three weeks as supplies dropped. Addison Armstrong, senior director of market research at Tradition Energy, says forecasts for cold weather through the end of March in the nation's primary gas-consuming areas have helped as well.

Oil rose slightly Thursday as U.S. employment data supported the market, offsetting news about ample crude supplies and worries about the eurozone economy. Weekly U.S. jobless claims fell by a greater-than-anticipated 10,000 to 332,000, helping to sustain hopes over the U.S. labor market.

Benchmark oil for April delivery was up 51 cents to end at $93.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, was up 90 cents to finish at $109.42 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

â¿¿ Wholesale gasoline was unchanged at $3.14 a gallon.

â¿¿ Heating oil picked up half a cent to end at $2.93 a gallon.

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