With traders bracing for the latest government storage data, another injection expected to land in the triple digits, natural gas futures were inching higher early Thursday. Coming off a 13.0-cent nosedive over the two previous sessions, the June Nymex contract was up 2.8 cents to $2.571/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.

Estimates suggest the Energy Information Administration (EIA) will report yet another above-average shoulder season storage injection for the week ended May 17. Surveys as of Wednesday showed a consensus prediction in the low triple digits for this week’s data, scheduled for release at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Respondents to a Bloomberg survey offered a median prediction of 104 Bcf, with a range of 99 Bcf to 112 Bcf. A Reuters survey also pointed to a 104 Bcf build, with responses from 100 Bcf to 112 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange EIA Financial Weekly Index futures settled Wednesday at 102 Bcf, while NGI’s model predicted a 105 Bcf build.

A triple-digit build would top both the 93 Bcf injection EIA recorded for the year-ago period and the five-year average 88 Bcf. The reported weekly builds have topped the comparable five-year average every week since the season’s first net injection, which was recorded for the week ended March 29. If consensus is confirmed, this week’s report would mark the third build to top the 100 Bcf mark over that time frame.

According to Energy Aspects, the period saw “fairly flat fundamentals” compared to the prior week, when EIA reported a 106 Bcf injection.

As for the latest forecasts, Radiant Solutions highlighted warmer trends in both its six- to 10-day and 11-15 day outlooks Thursday. The six- to 10-day “features a warm change in the Eastern Half, with any cooler adjustments being small and limited to parts of the West,” the forecaster said.

“As in the previous outlook, record-challenging heat remains in the Southeast under a still strong upper level ridge and dry conditions. Along the ridge’s periphery is a Midwest to Northeast storm track, and a day of stronger warmth is expected around mid-period in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast out ahead of low pressure. At the peak, temperatures press toward the mid-90s in Washington, DC.”

The 11-15 day outlook, meanwhile, showed “broadly warmer than normal” conditions across the Lower 48. This comes as “heat is slower to wane in the Southeast,” Radiant said.

Looking at the “rapid descent” in the futures market this week, EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman pointed to long-range forecasts showing milder conditions stretching into the first half of June as one possible driver of the recent bearishness.

“In addition, hedge funds shorting the market may have seen early morning prices that were still near $2.60 as a last opportunity to pounce before the monster injections expected to begin next week drive gas prices down sharply,” he said. For this week’s EIA report, “we expect a slightly smaller build, which could give prices a minor boost. With massive injections in store for Weeks 1, 2 and 3, though, the likelihood of a meaningful rebound is low. We expect further declines for Nymex gas by next week.”

Shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET, June crude oil futures were down $1.40 to $60.02/bbl, while June RBOB gasoline was off about 3.2 cents to $1.9589/gal.