Natural Gas Rises on Small Storage Build

Underground storage in the lower 48 states jumped by a smaller-than-expected 28 billion cubic feet for the week ended July 23, the Energy Information Administration said.
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) -- Natural gas futures rose after the U.S. government said storage levels rose well under many analysts' predictions last week.

Underground storage in the lower 48 states jumped by 28 billion cubic feet for the week ending July 23, the Energy Information Administration said in a release Thursday. The net injection, however, landed below projections calling for a buildup of between 31 billion to 35 billion cubic feet. The forecast was provided by Platts, which polled a set of analysts.

At 2.919 trillion cubic feet, storage levels are now 3.1% below last year's levels, the report continued. But against the five-year average, stocks remain 8.9% above.

The September delivery natural gas contract on the Nymex gained 11 cents, or 2.3%, to settle at $4.83 per million British thermal units.


United States Natural Gas Fund

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traded 2.8% higher, while the

First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas

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exchange-traded fund slid 0.1%. Natural gas-related equities were trading moderately higher as a group, as the NYSE Arca Natural Gas index rose 0.2%.

Also on the Nymex, the September crude oil contract bounced back.

Futures lost ground Wednesday after the EIA reported a surprisingly bearish 7.3 million barrel build in supplies. On Thursday, the contract added $1.37, or 1.8%, to settle at $78.36 a barrel.

The big news in the oil sector came from

Exxon Mobil

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, which reported second-quarter earnings of $1.60 a share vs. projections provided by

for $1.46 a share. Its refining segment improved over year, and production went up 8%, according to the company. Exxon shares traded higher after the earnings release, but closed down by 0.9%.


Dow Jones Industrial Average



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is scheduled to release its corporate earnings results Friday morning, with analysts expecting earnings to land at $2.44 a share. The stock ended Thursday's session 0.6% higher.

European integrated giant

Royal Dutch Shell


reported improving top and bottom-line figures in its second-quarter release. But in a release, CEO Peter Voser also said the firm continues "to see mixed signals in the global economy," while also adding that the "outlook remains uncertain" after earnings bounced off the worst levels from 2009.

Servicing firm

National Oilwell Varco

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reported a profit beat, earning 96 cents a share in the second quarter, though revenue fell 2.3%. Consensus forecasts were calling for 93 cents a share.

Elsewhere, September heating oil on the Nymex improved by 4 cents, or 2.2%, to settle at $2.07 a gallon, and the September gasoline contract rose by 4 cents, or 1.8%, to settle at $2.10 a gallon.

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