NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Natural gas prices took a hit Thursday, losing nearly 4% after weekly storage levels failed to fall as much as expected. The Energy Information Administration reported a withdrawal of 116 billion cubic feet to natural gas storage levels in the week ended Feb. 26. The decline wasn't as significant as expected, with analysts polled by Platts looking for a withdrawal in the range of 128 billion to 132 billion cubic feet. The April natural gas delivery contract tanked, losing 18 cents, or 3.8%, to settle at $4.58 per million British thermal units. The news dragged down shares of natural gas producers. Southwestern Energy ( SWN) lost 4.1% to $40.77 while Carrizo Oil & Gas ( CRZO) slumped 1.9% to $25.97. Chesapeake Energy ( CHK) shed 2.3% to $26.19 and Delta Petroleum ( DPTR) lost 3.3% to $1.45. The United States Natural Gas Fund ( UNG) fell by 34 cents, or 3.9%, to $8.31. The day's data came in largely as expected except for
pending home sales index , which showed a surprise decline of 7.6% in January when it had been expected to gain 1%. Weekly initial jobless claims fell by29,000 to 469,000 and January factory orders rose 1.7% but neither report offered much momentum to equities or energy prices. A stronger U.S. dollar also pressured commodity prices, with the dollar index up 0.7%. Crude oil for April delivery shed 66 cents, or 0.8%, to settle at $80.21. The United States Oil Fund ( USO) ETF weakened 0.6% to $39.15. Energy was the day's weakest sector with the NYSE Arca Oil Index slumping 0.01% and the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector Index dropping 0.6%. Exxon Mobil ( XOM) and Chevron ( CVX) were among the Dow's biggest laggards, declining 0.1% and 0.07%, respectively. Western Refining ( WNR) posted a fourth-quarter net loss of 58 cents a share, citing lower refining margins. The decline, however, was narrower than the loss of 68 cents a share expected by analysts and the stock added 34 cents, or 7.3%, to $5.03. Elsewhere on the Nymex, April heating oil lost 3 cents, or 1.2% to settle at $2.09 a gallon, while April gasoline finished 1 cent lower, or down by 0.6%, at $2.23 a gallon. --Written by Melinda Peer in New York.