Coming off natural gas futures gains the past five trading days, the June contract was set to open Friday about 3.3 cents lower at around $2.806/MMBtu as recent forecasts for May have failed to impress.

“Overnight model guidance lost a bit of short-term cooling demand and continued to show a long-range pattern that would hold weather-driven natural gas demand right around average,” Bespoke Weather Services said Friday. “A recent trend the last few days has been for day-of forecasts to verify a bit warmer than expected…”

The trend lowered Bespoke’s “final gas-weighted degree day expectations” for the week ending Friday over concerns “that cold over the weekend may not be quite as intense.”

The decline in the June contract Friday suggests “firm cash prices and a strong May expiry only temporarily dragged up the rest of the strip,” Bespoke said. Thursday’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report “was still seen as supportive…but moving into next week it would seem that with few weather-driven catalysts and injection size expected to swell the bias would be lower for prices, especially at the top of the current range.”

The May contract rolled off the board Thursday 3.5 cents higher at $2.821 following the release of EIA storage data that missed to the bullish side of expectations. EIA reported an 18 Bcf withdrawal from Lower 48 gas stocks for the week ending April 20, an unusual pull from inventories weeks into the typical start of injection season. Last year, EIA recorded a 71 Bcf build, while the five-year average is a build of 60 Bcf.

Total working gas in underground storage stood at 1,281 Bcf as of April 20, according to EIA. That’s versus 2,178 Bcf a year ago and five-year average stocks of 1,808 Bcf.

“Weather-adjusted the market was around 1.0-2.0 Bcf/d undersupplied,” analysts with Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH) said Friday. “Expect the market to remain undersupplied next week with colder than normal weather across the East Coast. However, the six-to-14 day forecasts continue to predict warmer-than-normal temperatures, signaling that injection season is right around the corner.

“U.S. natural gas production rebounded back to 80 Bcf/d, while Mexican exports have stabilized at around 4.3 Bcf/d,” the TPH analysts said. Liquefied natural gas exports “remain volatile week/week with April exports averaging around 3.5 Bcf/d (plus 150 MMcf/d month/month).”

Genscape Inc. analyst Eric Fell said the 18 Bcf withdrawal figure came in tighter than his firm’s 15 Bcf estimate.

“Compared to degree days and normal seasonality, the reported 18 Bcf withdrawal appears tight by minus 0.7 Bcf/d versus the five-year average,” Fell said.

June crude oil was set to open about 29 cents lower at around $67.90/bbl, while May RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally lower at around $2.1118/gal.