Amid colder overnight forecast trends from one of the major weather models, and with the market awaiting the latest storage data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas futures were trading higher early Thursday. The January Nymex contract was up 3.9 cents to $2.282/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.

Most estimates as of Wednesday pointed to a withdrawal in the 70s to low 80s Bcf range for this week’s report, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET. A Bloomberg survey of nine participants showed withdrawal projections for the week ended Dec. 6 hovering in a tight range from 72 Bcf to 81 Bcf, with a median of 78 Bcf. A Reuters poll of 16 analysts pointed to a draw of 76 Bcf, although some estimates were as low as 62 Bcf. NGI’s model predicted a pull of 75 Bcf.

This would compare with last year’s 75 Bcf draw for the similar week and the 68 Bcf five-year average draw, according to EIA. Last week, EIA reported a 19 Bcf draw from storage that left inventories as of Nov. 29 at 3,591 Bcf, 591 Bcf above year-ago levels and 9 Bcf below the five-year average.

Genscape Inc. estimated a 73 Bcf withdrawal for the report, a “seasonally adjusted composite” of pipeline modeling that pointed to a 75 Bcf pull and daily supply and demand modeling that indicated a draw of 70 Bcf.

The supply and demand modeling “shows net supply was flat to the week prior as a production decline of 0.3 Bcf/d was more than offset by increased imports from Canada,” Genscape senior natural gas analyst Rick Margolin said. “Net demand (domestic plus exports) was estimated to have averaged 108 Bcf/d, about 8 Bcf/d greater than the Thanksgiving holiday week prior.

“If our composite estimate of a 73 Bcf withdrawal is realized it will mark a value about 2.7 Bcf/d looser than the five-year same-date average.”

In terms of weather during this week’s EIA report period, most of the country saw warmer than normal conditions except for parts of the interior West and the East, according to NatGasWeather. The forecaster predicted a pull of around 72-73 Bcf.

As for the overnight guidance, the Global Forecast System (GFS) continued to show a “cold pattern” for next week into the following weekend, the forecaster said.

“The European model had been considerably milder compared to the GFS, and still is, but did add” 11 heating degree days overnight, helping to “close the gap,” NatGasWeather said. “Even though the European model added demand, it’s still quite bearish Dec. 21-26...There’s potential for additional weather trends to occur midday and where the GFS could still prove to be much too cold and lose demand.”

January crude oil futures were trading 15 cents higher at $58.91/bbl shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET, while January RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally higher at $1.6327/gal.