Coming off mixed trends from forecasts overnight, and with the market still mulling the balance implications of a stronger-than-expected start to the withdrawal season, natural gas futures were trading slightly higher early Friday. The December Nymex contract was up 2.3 cents to $2.590/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.

Overnight guidance was mixed, according to Bespoke Weather Services, which pointed to a small increase in demand in the medium range from the American model and a small loss of demand from the European data.

“The trend remains for a variable pattern the next 10 days or so, followed by a colder than normal 11-15 day period,” Bespoke said. “The models differ on exactly how cold it gets, however,” with the American model about 20 gas-weighted degree days colder than its European counterpart.

The American model “is hard to trust...as it has been so erratic for the last couple of weeks,” the forecaster said. “Still, it’s a risk that cannot completely be ruled out given uncertainties in tropical forcing evolution.”

Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a 94 Bcf net withdrawal from U.S. gas stocks during the week ended Nov. 15. The 94 Bcf withdrawal, the first of the season, came in well above the five-year average pull of 32 Bcf but shy of the 109 Bcf draw recorded for the year-ago period.

Total Lower 48 working gas in underground storage stood at 3,638 Bcf as of Nov. 15, 506 Bcf (16.2%) higher than year-ago levels and 60 Bcf (minus 1.6%) lower than the five-year average, according to EIA.

“The print came in bullish to consensus at 89 Bcf and on a weather-adjusted basis implies a balanced market,” analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH) said. “Unfortunately, after the early dose of cold, things have moderated significantly, and week/week flow data suggests demand is receding by around 11 Bcf/d.” Supply not including Canadian imports was estimated to be down about 1 Bcf/d.

“Despite this week’s print suggesting a balanced market, our supply/demand balances for 4Q2019 and 1Q2020 indicate a 2-3 Bcf/d oversupplied market, resulting in smaller than normal withdrawals and a surplus to the five-year average exiting winter,” the TPH analysts said.

Genscape Inc. analysts measured this week’s withdrawal figure as about 1 Bcf/d looser than the five-year average when compared to degree days and normal seasonality.

“While loose versus weather/seasonality relative to the prior five years, this week’s stat is materially tighter than what we have observed over the last two months,” Genscape analysts Eric Fell and Brandon Lee said in a note to clients. “Over the last nine weeks we have injected 6 Bcf more than the five-year average despite the fact that total degree days have been bullish to the five-year average by 137 over that time frame -- averaging more than 4 Bcf/d loose versus weather/seasonality.”

January crude oil futures were trading 32 cents lower at $58.26/bbl shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET, while December RBOB gasoline was down fractionally to $1.6953/gal.