By   |  Commodities News  |  Nov 15, 2012 03:52PM GMT  

Natural gas futures erased gains to turn lower during U.S. morning hours on Thursday, as investors booked profits after a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed the first withdrawal of the winter heating season.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas futures for delivery in December traded at USD3.715 per million British thermal units during U.S. morning trade, down 1.2% on the day.       

It earlier fell by as much as 1.8% to trade at a session low of USD3.692 per million British thermal units.

The December contract traded at USD3.756 prior to the release of the U.S. Energy Information Administration report.  

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that natural gas storage in the U.S. in the week ended November 9 fell by 18 billion cubic feet, compared to expectations for a decline of 14 billion cubic feet.

It was the earliest seasonal decline since 2007. The heating season from November through March is the peak demand period for U.S. gas consumption.

Inventories rose by 20 billion cubic feet in the same week a year earlier, while the five-year average change for the week is an increase of 17 billion cubic feet, according to U.S. Energy Department data.

Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 3.911 trillion cubic feet as of last week. Stocks were 71 billion cubic feet higher than last year at this time and 209 billion cubic feet above the five-year average of 3.702 trillion cubic feet for this time of year.

The report showed that in the East Region, stocks were 11 billion cubic feet above the five-year average, following net withdrawals of 23 billion cubic feet. 

Stocks in the Producing Region were 145 billion cubic feet above the five-year average of 1.142 billion cubic feet, after a net injection of 2 billion cubic feet.

Natural gas prices have rallied sharply in recent sessions, as updated weather forecasts showed that cold weather was expected across most parts of the U.S. in the coming week.

Bullish speculators are betting on the colder weather increasing early-winter demand for the heating fuel.