With traders looking ahead to new weekly storage data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas futures were trading slightly higher early Thursday. The March Nymex contract was trading 2.1 cents higher at $1.865/MMBtu at around 8:30 a.m. ET.

Estimates circulating in the market have been pointing to a withdrawal in the neighborhood of 110 Bcf for EIA’s latest storage number, which covers the week ending Feb. 7. The report is scheduled for its usual 10:30 a.m. ET release.

A Bloomberg survey of nine market participants showed a range of withdrawals from 102 Bcf to 112 Bcf, with a median draw of 108 Bcf. A Reuters poll included a much larger pull of 122 Bcf and a median of 110 Bcf, while a Wall Street Journal poll averaged a 109 Bcf draw. NGI’s model projected a withdrawal of 113 Bcf.

The reported EIA figure would compare with last year’s 101 Bcf withdrawal and the five-year average draw of 131 Bcf.

“It was much warmer than normal over the northern and eastern halves of the U.S., while colder than normal over the Interior West” during this week’s EIA report period, NatGasWeather said. “Our algorithm expects a 113 Bcf pull, slightly bullish to expectations.”

As for the overnight weather data, the forecaster viewed the latest trends as mixed, seeing the Global Forecast System as “little changed” but noting demand losses from the European dataset.

“Overall, weather patterns still don’t look nearly as bearish as they did after last weekend’s break,” owing to a “nice frigid cold shot to sweep across the Midwest and East the next several days, followed by a colder trending system for next week,” NatGasWeather said. Also lending support to prices, “the supply/demand balance remains much tighter than it did at the start of winter, thereby providing better opportunity for colder weather patterns to cash in when they cooperate.”

Despite the cold shots this week and next, overall gas-weighted heating demand for the three upcoming storage report weeks is still projected to come in below normal, according to EBW Analytics Group analysts.

“The market is continuing to react in a restrained manner this morning, partly due to maintenance” at the Sabine Pass and Cameron liquefied natural gas terminals, “which is cutting feed gas by more than 2 Bcf/d,” EBW analysts said. “Major surveys are calling for an EIA-reported draw this morning of 108-110 Bcf. A larger draw is possible, potentially giving futures a further boost.”

March crude oil futures were down 6 cents to $51.11/bbl at around 8:30 a.m. ET, while March RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally lower at $1.5716/gal.