May natural gas is expected to open 4 cents higher Thursday morning at $4.77 before the release of government storage statistics that for the last two weeks have come in shy of market estimates. Overnight oil markets rose.

Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective is forecasting a storage build of 26 Bcf, well on the light side of other estimates that are closer to 40 Bcf. The problem is that even at 40 Bcf, little impact is made on the year-on-five-year deficit, and figures show the industry will have to inject well over 100 Bcf weekly to come anywhere close to last season’s starting inventory of 3.8 Tcf.

“With storage on this path, the year-on-five-year average storage deficit would expand to 1,055 Bcf as of May 2 before declining slightly to 1,048 Bcf as of May 9. While we continue to see risk that a break in temperatures could prompt at least a partial cycle of speculative long liquidation that would weaken prices, the current storage outlook remains supportive. In fact given the magnitude of the storage deficit, we would view even the absence of a declining deficit as supportive for prices.

“Last week the Energy Information Administration [EIA] reported a build of just 24 Bcf, well short of industry expectations that were about 10 Bcf higher, and spot futures romped to a 21 cent gain. One school of thought has it that this week’s report is ripe for a revision, suggesting that the actual figure may come out above industry estimates, which curiously this week are also hovering around 40 Bcf. “

Last year 30 Bcf was injected, and the five-year average is for a 47 Bcf build. In addition to Evans’ estimate, a Reuters poll of 21 traders and analysts revealed an average 42 Bcf with a range of 25-61 Bcf, and United ICAP calculates an increase of 35 Bcf. Ritterbush and Associates, which last week came about as close as anyone with a 27 Bcf estimate, is projecting a build of 50 Bcf for this week’s report.

One school of thought has it that the EIA will be reporting a larger number than what people are thinking because the EIA will adjust the numbers. “Many analysts we spoke to this week expect a bigger build than perhaps their respective numbers would have it or then our consensus might reflect,” said John Sodergreen, editor of Energy Metro Desk (EMD).

“How’s that? Simple. Given the big misfires coming out of EIA these past few weeks, there is a big expectation for a sort of true-up of sorts. EIA is fairly predictable in this; give the market two bombshells and on the third week after, we see a build that more or less sets things right.” The EMD survey comes in at a 44 Bcf build.

In overnight Globex trading June crude oil rose 39 cents to $101.83/bbl and June RBOB gasoline added a penny to $3.0505/gal.