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Crude, Natural Gas Rise on Inventory Data

Oil inventories fell by 1.9 million barrels for the week ending May 28, the government's Energy Information Administration reported today, while natural gas storage levels increased by 88 billion cubic feet.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Both crude and natural gas inventories saw surprise fluctuations last week, according to government data, giving a lift to energy futures on Thursday.

Oil inventories fell by 1.9 million barrels for the week ending May 28, the government's Energy Information Administration reported today, which was a steeper drawdown than expected. Analysts polled by Platts had been looking for crude stocks to fall by 1 million barrels.

Gasoline inventories saw a particularly sharp and unexpected drop, declining by 2.6 million barrels despite calls for a 750,000 barrel increase. Distillate fuel stockpiles, on the other hand, edged up by 500,000 barrels, which was still lighter than the forecast for a 950,000 barrel build.

The EIA's petroleum report was released a day later than normal because of Monday's Memorial Day holiday.

The crude oil contract for July delivery finished near its session high of $74.95, gaining $1.75, or 2.4%, to settle at $74.61 a barrel.

Also on the Nymex, the July heating oil contract added 3 cents, or 1.7%, to settle at $2.04 a gallon, while July gasoline advanced 6 cents, or 2.7% higher, to settle at $2.08 a gallon.

Oil-related stocks showed some of the strongest gains of the session, and the NYSE Arca oil index added 1.3%, while the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index gained 0.6%. On the

Dow

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, shares of

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

were among the top three best-performing stocks, gaining 79 cents, or 1.3%, to $61.56. Fellow Dow component

Chevron

(CVX) - Get Report

, meanwhile, lost 22 cents, or 0.3%, to $73.91.

Separately, the EIA also said storage of natural gas in the lower 48 states rose last week by 88 billion cubic feet. The net injection landed below forecasts, calling for an increase of 90 to 94 billion cubic feet.

Still, the report also made clear that natural gas stocks remain higher versus historical levels. With storage levels landing at 2.357 trillion cubic feet last week, stocks now stand 1.6% higher compared to year-ago levels and 14.9% higher compared to the average over the past five years.

The July natural gas contract soared 27 cents higher, or 6%, to settle at $4.69 per million British thermal units.

--Written by Sung Moss and Melinda Peer in New York