After a 12.5-cent sell-off in the previous session, natural gas futures were trading slightly higher early Thursday ahead of the latest weekly government storage data, which could potentially show the season’s first injection. The April Nymex contract was up 2.5 cents to $1.629/MMBtu at around 8:30 a.m. ET.

The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 10:30 a.m. ET storage report is likely to show a small, much lighter-than-average withdrawal for the week ending March 13, according to estimates.

A Bloomberg survey showed a median estimate for a 3 Bcf withdrawal, while a Reuters poll landed on a consensus pull of 6 Bcf. Estimates ranged from minus 2 Bcf to minus 11 Bcf. NGI’s model predicted a 1 Bcf withdrawal.

Last year, EIA recorded a 91 Bcf withdrawal for the similar week, and the five-year average is a pull of 63 Bcf.

“It was much warmer than normal over almost the entire country besides the slightly cool Northwest,” NatGasWeather said of this week’s report period. “Our algorithm forecasts no change to supplies...bearish versus expectations.”

EBW Analytics Group predicted an 8 Bcf withdrawal for the report.

“The possibility of a small build cannot be ruled out, however, which could send gas prices back down,” the firm’s analysts said. “The primary driver for natural gas, though, is likely to be the broader market as a proxy for declines in demand. After support for the Dow held yesterday at 2017 inauguration day levels and front-month crude rebounded when it hit $20, the April gas contract is trading higher this morning and may not decisively break support at $1.60-1.61 until next week.”

As for the overnight weather data, NatGasWeather said it observed only “very slight milder trends” compared to previous expectations.

“The pattern remains a bit too warm” between next Wednesday and April 1 given that “the only relatively cold air is expected across the West Coast and near the Canadian border,” the forecaster said. “As such, the pattern will remain bearish-biased without colder trends.”

The early gains were likely driven by “other factors such as profit taking or buyers stepping in to buy the multi-year dip,” according to NatGasWeather said.

April crude oil futures were trading $1.61 higher at $21.98/bbl, while April RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally higher at around 63.8 cents/gal.