As updated forecasts hinted at higher cooling demand developing later in May, natural gas futures recovered the previous session’s losses in early trading Friday. After slipping 1.0 cents in Thursday’s trading, the June Nymex contract was up 1.3 cents to $2.941/MMBtu at around 8:45 a.m. ET.

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Based on the latest forecast data projections from Bespoke Weather Services early Friday pointed to slightly higher demand day/day for the 15-day outlook period. 

The higher projected demand was a result of additional warmth expected around May 20, “as models show better support for a building upper level ridge over the central/eastern U.S., enough so that we feel we get a more material boost” in cooling degree days, Bespoke said. This could in turn set the stage for “above normal cooling demand to close out the month and start June.”

Natural gas futures prices have been range-bound in the $2.90-3.00 area recently. Daily fundamental data points early Friday lacked “a convincing signal for a notable move either higher or lower,” according to Bespoke.

“Cash prices have been weaker the last couple of days, which, combined with the market’s reaction as we tested $3.00 this week, suggests that we need a new bullish piece of data to move higher,” Bespoke said. However, “any downside may be limited as well, given our expectation for above normal demand to close out May and begin the month of June.”

Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday reported an injection of 60 Bcf into Lower 48 gas stocks for the week ended April 30. The print came in a few ticks below expectations and was bullish versus both the 103 Bcf year-ago injection and the five-year average 81 Bcf build.

“It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day as gas continues to impress with another build well below seasonal norms,” analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH) said in a note to clients early Friday. “…With the lower than normal build, inventories sit at a 4% deficit to the five-year average and continue to be indicative of the strong macro environment.”

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) feed gas volumes have continued to “run hot” recently at above 11 Bcf/d, the analysts said.

“With European storage struggling to refill and increasing demand out of Asia, we continue to believe demand for feed gas will stay above 10 Bcf/d through the summer,” the TPH analysts said.

Looking regionally, TPH pointed to storage deficits versus the five-year average in both the EIA South Central and East regions, with the South Central 9% below historical norms and the East sitting at a 6% deficit.

“With two major markets continuing to distance themselves from the five-year average, we continue to remain optimistic on gas pricing heading into summer.”

June crude oil futures were down 74 cents to $63.97/bbl at around 8:45 a.m. ET, while June RBOB gasoline was off about 2.4 cents to $2.0896/gal.