As analysts were seeing upside risks for this week’s reported Energy Information Administration (EIA) inventory build, natural gas futures were trading lower early Thursday. Coming off a 4.0-cent gain the previous session, the Nymex July futures contract was down 3.0 cents to $2.594/MMBtu just after 8:30 a.m. ET.

Estimates ahead of this week’s EIA report, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET, have been pointing to a near average build approaching the low triple digits for the week ended May 24.

A Bloomberg survey as of Wednesday showed a median prediction of 98 Bcf, based on estimates ranging from 94 Bcf to 104 Bcf. A Reuters survey called for a 101 Bcf injection based on a range from 91 Bcf to 110 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange EIA Financial Weekly Index futures settled Wednesday at 100 Bcf, while NGI’s model predicted a 98 Bcf build.

Last year, EIA recorded a 95 Bcf injection for the period, and the five-year average is a 97 Bcf build.

“It was warmer than normal over much of the eastern half of the country and cooler than normal over the western half,” NatGasWeather said of this week’s report period. “Our algorithm predicts a build of 98 Bcf, slightly bullish to most surveys, although we do have concerns there could be a few Bcf missing from last week’s report that has the potential to increase the build to 100 Bcf or slightly over.”

Whether or not bulls can follow through on Wednesday’s rally will depend partly on this week’s EIA data, according to EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman.

While surveys have been pointing to a 98-101 Bcf build, “a substantially higher injection is possible, potentially near 105 Bcf,” Weissman said. “If this occurs, the price of the July contract could quickly drop back below $2.60 in its first day of trading as the front month.

“Even if this morning’s reported injection is more bullish, however, with the likelihood of three more 100 Bcf injections after this week and forecasts calling for moderate weather in June, the market is likely to struggle to move higher. Instead, continued range-bound trading is likely.”

Looking at the overnight weather data, except for the European data, models added a few Bcf of demand for the second week of June, according to NatGasWeather.

“The pattern remains moderately bearish since larger than normal builds are still expected for the first two weeks of June, potentially both over 100 Bcf,” the forecaster said.

In its latest six- to 10-day forecast, Radiant Solutions continued to call for a round of below normal temperatures accompanying high pressure in the East early in the period.

“With a disturbance tracking through around mid-period, temperatures are expected to only return to normal here during the second half,” Radiant said. “The Southeast is finally nearing an end to record heat in the near term, but with temperatures expected to remain on the warmer side through this time frame. Aboves are also from California to the Northern Plains.”

As for the 11-15 day period, the forecaster reported no major changes, with the outlook “favoring above normal temperatures in the Midwest and near normal readings along the East and West Coasts...The Euro model is the outlier among guidance this morning, projecting a cooler period with near to slightly below normal coverage from the Rockies toward the East Coast. While we consider this a risk, there is concern the model is too cool given its historical bias in high soil moisture areas.”

July crude oil futures were trading close to even just after 8:30 a.m. ET, up 1.0 cent to $58.82/bbl, while June RBOB gasoline was off about 1.9 cents to $1.9260/gal.