The June natural gas contract was set to open Thursday near even at around $2.915/MMBtu, with the market turning its attention to the 10:30 a.m. ET release of the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) weekly storage report.

Estimates for this week’s EIA inventory data show the market anticipating a build large enough to chip away at deficits — but not by much.

A Reuters survey of traders and analysts on average predicted a 92 Bcf injection for the week ending May 18, with responses ranging from 85 Bcf to 100 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey produced a median 91 Bcf injection, with responses from 78 Bcf to 111 Bcf. Last year, EIA recorded a 74 Bcf build for the period, with a five-year average injection of 89 Bcf.

ION Energy predicted a 90 Bcf build, while Intercontinental Exchange EIA futures for this week’s report settled Wednesday at an injection of 91 Bcf.

Genscape Inc. analyst Rick Margolin said Thursday morning his firm expects EIA to report a 94 Bcf injection for the period.

“While the range amongst forecasting shops that publish is not terribly wide, another sub-100 Bcf report is likely to spur some antsiness in forwards should the number do little to erode the year/year total inventory deficit,” Margolin said. He noted that Genscape’s forward supply and demand data have been showing natural gas, crude and natural gas liquids forwards pricing end-of-season inventories below 3.6 Tcf. said temperatures were warmer-than-normal during the EIA storage period across most of the country save for parts of the West, with the firm’s algorithm pointing to a 90 Bcf injection.

“The first week of June still looks quite hot over Texas and much of the South with highs of mid-90s to 100s, but what the markets will be watching is if any of this heat will reach the Southeast,” where the overnight data showed cooler trends, NatGasWeather said. “…If heat fails to build out of the South to include the Southeast, and if the Northeast continues to show comfortable temperatures, the markets will likely come back from the long holiday weekend with a neutral to slightly bearish stance on weather patterns.

“…Bigger picture, deficits near 500 Bcf are here to stay,” the firm said. “We think weather patterns are back to having a more prominent role in market sentiment and will be watched closely” heading into the weekend for hotter or cooler trends in the second and third weeks of June.

Looking at the technicals, analysts with Rafferty Commodities Group noted some follow-through Wednesday on Tuesday’s nearly 10-cent rally.

After rallying this week, the June contract took out a horizontal resistance line at $2.876. “That was the first obstacle the market was able to overcome,” analysts said, pegging major resistance levels for Thursday at $2.950, $2.978 and $3.060, with minor support at $2.890 and major support at $2.876, $2.854 and $2.828.

“The bigger picture depicted on the monthly chart still suggests that the consolidation pattern is in effect,” the Rafferty analysts said. “A close beyond our major numbers would cause us to change our view of trading back and forth against our numbers to a directionally biased approach.”

July crude oil was set to open about 89 cents lower at around $70.95/bbl, while June RBOB gasoline was trading about 1.9 cents lower at around $2.2416/gal.