A large drop in heating demand expectations overnight kept the pressure on an already-depressed natural gas futures market in early trading Wednesday. The expiring February Nymex contract was trading 3.0 cents lower at $1.904/MMBtu at around 8:30 a.m. ET. March was trading 1.9 cents lower at $1.889.

The latest guidance heading into Wednesday’s trading advertised “another large warmer shift,” with both American and European datasets dropping more than 15 gas-weighted degree days from the outlook compared to 24 hours earlier, according to Bespoke Weather Services.

“The changes are seen mostly in the eastern third of the nation, where next week has moved materially warmer,” Bespoke said. “The reason for the change? Once again, it is the models having to adjust to the high latitude pattern from Alaska over to Greenland, which is simply not supportive for pushing colder air into key areas of the U.S.

“We do feel there can be some cold at times starting next week from the Interior West over to the Plains and perhaps Upper Midwest, but there remains little reason to believe that colder conditions versus normal will be able to push into the East and South as we head through at least the first half of February.”

Genscape Inc. meteorologists similarly removed 9 heating degree days from their latest aggregate 14-day forecast.

“The largest changes were applied to next Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 5-6, with each becoming warmer by nearly 2 degree days versus yesterday’s forecast,” Genscape senior natural gas analyst Rick Margolin said. “The change results in the 14-day demand forecast being reduced by about 1.8 Bcf/d and 25.7 Bcf aggregate over the two-week period.”

Still, prices have been drawing support from projections that Thursday’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report will show a withdrawal in the neighborhood of 200 Bcf, analysts at EBW Analytics Group said. Expectations for a large withdrawal, along with the options expiration, likely contributed to Tuesday’s gains, they said.

“The case for further price declines is not yet compelling,” according to the EBW analysts. “A 200 Bcf-plus draw on Thursday, if it occurs, could boost the market. Further, gas-weighted heating degree days are expected to pick up significantly” around Feb. 7-13, “which could provide near-term support.

“There are increasing indications, though, that Indian Ocean forcing could strengthen again” toward mid-February. “If this bearish signal validates, the price of the March contract could decline significantly next month.”

March crude oil futures were up 80 cents at $54.28/bbl at around 8:30 a.m. ET, while February RBOB gasoline was trading about 2.2 cents higher at $1.5256/gal.