The price of natural gas tumbled more than 2 percent Thursday after the government reported that U.S. supplies dropped less than expected.
Oil moved in the opposite direction, jumping above $110 per barrel for the first time since September 2008. That could raise concerns among U.S. drivers. They're now paying an average of $3.73 per gallon at the pump, up more than 65 cents per gallon since January.
Oil and natural gas prices have seen different trends over the past two years. Oil, which is traded internationally, has climbed as China and other emerging economies increased world demand. Natural gas, however, is mostly geared toward domestic markets, and prices show an overall decline as a boom in production injected a hefty surplus into U.S. supplies.
The average price for natural gas dropped 5 percent last month, when compared with last year. Oil, on the other hand, jumped 27 percent.
Analysts said the latest government data will only widen the disparity between oil and natural gas.
The Energy Information Administration reported that natural gas stocks dropped by 45 billion cubic feet last week. Analysts had expected an even bigger drop of between 49 to 53 billion cubic feet. The report was another sign that "good demand is not even putting a dent in supply," analyst and trader Stephen Schork said.
The natural gas contract for May delivery lost 8.9 cents at $4.057 per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier, natural gas lost as much as 11 cents, or 2.6 percent.
Meanwhile, benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil for May delivery rose $1.47 to $110.30 per barrel on the Nymex. In London, Brent crude gained 27 cents at $122.20 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Gasoline pump prices are still rising and setting records for this time of year. The national average increased nearly 2 cents on Thursday to $3.725 per gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. A gallon of regular unleaded increased by 20.8 cents in the last month and 88.1 cents in the last year.
Americans are paying $247 million more per day at the pump than they were at the start of the year.
In other Nymex contracts for May delivery, heating oil lost 1.48 cents to $3.2060 per gallon and gasoline futures lost 0.64 cents at $3.1865 per gallon.
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