As traders and analysts prepared to examine the latest round of government inventory data in the context of ongoing balance impacts from the Freeport liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal outage, natural gas futures retreated in early trading Thursday.

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The July Nymex contract was off 13.3 cents to $6.725/MMBtu at around 8:50 a.m. ET. August was down 13.4 cents to $6.738.

Estimates ahead of the latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET, show expectations centering around a build in the 60s Bcf for the week ended July 17.

Reuters polled 13 analysts, whose storage injection estimates ranged from 56 Bcf to 76 Bcf, resulting in a median increase of 66 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey produced a lower median projection of 59 Bcf, though the range of estimates was the same. A Wall Street Journal poll, meanwhile, had a tighter forecast range, with an average build of 66 Bcf. 

The five-year average injection is 82 Bcf, while EIA recorded a 49 Bcf build for the year-earlier period.

“It was hotter versus normal over most of the U.S. besides the Northwest,” NatGasWeather said of the latest EIA report period. “The build would have been smaller if not for the Freeport LNG outage that added up to 2 Bcf/d in supplies. We expect a build of 60-61 Bcf.”

Pipeline flow models point to the possibility of a leaner injection versus consensus for the latest EIA print, according to EBW Analytics Group.

“Any surprise could prove particularly impactful this week as the market looks to establish direction,” EBW senior analyst Eli Rubin said.

Looking at changes in the weather outlook, the American model “reverted cooler overnight” after advertising hotter trends on Wednesday, according to NatGasWeather. The European model, meanwhile, also lowered cooling demand expectations overnight but remained hotter overall compared to its American counterpart, the firm said.

Recent cooler trends have been focused over the northern part of the country between days five and 15 of the outlook, NatGasWeather said.

“Overall, we continue to view the pattern as bullish through the weekend, neutral early next week, then slightly bullish July 1-7,” the firm said. “…To our view, what’s most important going forward is if a hotter than normal U.S. pattern occurs for most of July and August. If so, it will be able to offset a decent amount of the lost demand from the Freeport outage.”