With the market anticipating a relatively small withdrawal figure from upcoming Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage data, natural gas futures were trading slightly lower early Thursday. The April Nymex futures contract was off 1.1 cents to $2.809/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.

Estimates ahead of this week’s EIA report, due at 10:30 a.m. ET, were pointing to a lighter-than-average withdrawal. A Reuters survey showed participants expecting EIA to report a 48 Bcf withdrawal for the week ended March 15, with estimates ranging from a pull of 30 Bcf to 56 Bcf. As of Wednesday afternoon, a Bloomberg survey showed a median estimate for a 50 Bcf pull, with responses ranging from minus 42 Bcf to minus 56 Bcf. NGI’s storage model predicted a 44 Bcf withdrawal.

IAF Advisors analyst Kyle Cooper predicted a 47 Bcf withdrawal, and Bespoke Weather Services pegged the number at 48 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange EIA Financial Weekly Index futures settled Wednesday at a pull of 48 Bcf.

Last year, EIA recorded an 87 Bcf withdrawal from U.S. gas stocks for the period, and the five-year average is a withdrawal of 56 Bcf.

“It was warmer than normal over the eastern half of the country, including the South and Southeast, while cooler than normal across the West and northern Plains” during this week’s report period, according to NatGasWeather. “Our algorithm sees it to the bearish side at 40-42 Bcf.”

As for the overnight weather data, the forecaster said the Global Forecaster System (GFS) maintained milder trends over the East during the first week of April that began to show up in data Wednesday.

“The overnight European model remains colder than the rest of the data March 31-April 3, seeing weather systems with below normal temperatures impacting larger portions of the country, including the East,” NatGasWeather said. “...Overall, still notably colder trending weather data compared to the start of the week, especially for next week, then mixed with the European model colder than the GFS for the start of April.”

Meanwhile, Genscape Inc.’s real-time monitoring of liquefied natural gas (LNG) volumes is showing an unexpected drop in deliveries to Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass, LA, terminal for Thursday. Delivery nominations to Sabine Pass had dropped 617 MMcf/d day/day from Wednesday to Thursday (March 20 to March 21), according to the firm.

“Evening cycle nominations showed the greatest declines in scheduled capacity on the Kinder Morgan Louisiana and Creole Trail pipelines, with scheduled deliveries to the terminal via each pipeline falling 310 MMcf and 249 MMcf, respectively,” Genscape analyst Allison Hurley said. “Scheduled deliveries to Sabine Pass LNG have averaged 3.9 Bcf/d over the last seven days.”

Hurley said the drop in volumes does not correspond to any scheduled maintenance on either Kinder Morgan Louisiana or Creole Trail.

At around 8:30 a.m. ET, May crude oil futures were down 38 cents to $59.85/bbl, while April RBOB gasoline was down fractionally to $1.9094/gal.