The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a 19 Bcf withdrawal from storage inventories for the week ending Nov. 29, well within the range of market expectations.

The reported figure was lower than last week’s 28 Bcf pull, and far below the 62 Bcf withdrawal recorded in the same week last year and the 42 Bcf five-year average.

However, market observers on The Desk’s energy platform viewed the report as “neutral” and noted that the market held up fairly well considering the reporting week included the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nymex futures action initially reflected this sentiment. The January gas contract was trading 2.1 cents higher at $2.42 at 10:20 a.m. ET, and then slipped just fractionally to $2.417 as the EIA print crossed screens. By 11 a.m., however, the prompt month was up 5.0 cents to $2.449.

The reported 19 Bcf draw was “almost dead-on” with Bespoke Weather Services’ estimate and well within the range of market estimates. “For that reason, we label this as a ‘neutral’ report, although we do feel that many in the market anticipated a smaller draw, which we think explains the move higher in prices since the report came out.”

Ahead of the report, a Reuters survey of 19 market participants showed withdrawal estimates ranging from 8 Bcf to 33 Bcf, with a median pull of 24 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey showed a median draw of 25 Bcf. NGI had projected a pull of 15 Bcf.

Next week’s number will be more interesting now, according to Bespoke, as it definitely sees some balance tightening showing up in the data, “enough so that any decent turn back colder can promote a rally back over $2.50 in prompt-month pricing rather easily, in our view.”

Broken down by region, the Midwest reported the largest withdrawal of 12 Bcf, while the Pacific pulled 7 Bcf out of storage, according to EIA. Just 4 Bcf was drawn out of inventories in the Mountain region, and the East pulled out 3 Bcf.

The South Central region posted a net injection of 8 Bcf, including 13 Bcf that was added into salt facilities and 5 Bcf that was withdrawn from nonsalts, the EIA said.

Enelyst Managing Director Het Shah noted the “nice build in salt” and said the region pretty much injected the amount it had withdrawn a couple of weeks back. The region is now “back to net salt injection over the month of November.”

Total working gas in storage as of Nov. 29 stood at 3,591 Bcf, which is 591 Bcf above year-ago levels and 9 Bcf below the five-year average, according to EIA.