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It’s warm outside.

If early-blooming crocuses and people wearing shorts weren’t evidence enough, stocks of surplus natural gas in the US increased last week in the first February rise on record, the Energy Information Administration said on Thursday.

The net injection of 7bn cubic feet into underground storage caverns came as balmy temperatures allowed furnaces to burn less gas. Last week the weather was 20.6 per cent warmer than the same week of 2016 and 41.9 per cent warmer than normal, according to the American Gas Association. The whole US winter has so far been 18 per cent warmer than normal, according to government statistics.

Normally, US gas companies draw down inventories during the winter until March or April, then bank extra supplies from spring to autumn.

Analysts had expected a small withdrawal from storage last week. Nymex April gas futures dropped 1.1 per cent to $2.769 per million British thermal units.

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