Futures Movers: Oil under pressure as inventory data on deck; Natural-gas futures surge 6%

Oil prices on Thursday were retreating, giving up slight gains, from two-year highs as investors awaited important data on crude-oil stockpiles. Natural-gas prices, however, were rallying as cold weather in the eastern U.S. helped to drive prices higher.

February West Texas Intermediate oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange CLG8, -0.12%  gave up 9 cents, or 0.2%, at $59.55 a barrel. February Brent LCOG8, -0.06%  declined 6 cents, or less than 0.1%, to $66.93 a barrel.

Both grades have approached their highest levels since 2015 amid thin trading over the Christmas holiday and ahead of the new year.

Prices were boosted after the American Petroleum Institute on Wednesday said U.S. crude inventories declined by 6 million barrels for the week ended Dec. 22.

The Energy Information Administration will release official data at 11 a.m. Eastern, delayed by a day because of the holidays.

Meanwhile, Natural gas NGG18, +6.70%  for February delivery surged 17 cents, or 6%, to $2.898 per million British thermal units, on track to post the biggest daily rise in a month.

Meteorologists were forecasting bitter temperatures in much of the U.S. to close out 2017, which could support further buying in natural gas and heating oil.

On the crude front, futures were buoyed earlier in the week by supply disruptions in Libya as well as the continuing outage of the Forties Pipeline System in the North Sea, which stopped the flow of 450,000 barrels a day.

The pipeline operator Ineos said Tuesday the Forties should be fully operational early in the New Year.

Elsewhere in the energy complex, January heating oil HOF8, +0.52% rose by about 1 cent, or 0.5%, to $2.051 a gallon. Its close at $2.04 Wednesday marked a 52-week high for heating oil and the highest settlement since Feb. 27, 2015, according to WSJ Market Data Group. January gasoline RBF8, -0.26% fell by about 1 cent, or 0.3%, at $1.785 a gallon.

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