March natural gas was set to open Thursday about 3 cents lower at around $2.556 as overnight weather data dropped some heating demand versus previous expectations.

The Global Forecast System (GFS) warmed overnight to come into better alignment with the more bearish European guidance, according to

“The overnight GFS model was notably milder trending, losing more than 20 heating degree days (HDD) compared to yesterday’s runs, which showed up” in real-time degree day data “just before the markets sold off overnight,” the firm said. “The European model maintained a milder eastern U.S. pattern, but with the GFS still teasing some cooling into the East Coast to start March, just not as impressive with it.”

Meanwhile, the 10:30 a.m. EDT release of Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage data could deliver a bullish net withdrawal versus recent norms, according to estimates this week.

A Reuters survey of traders and analysts on average estimated a 183 Bcf withdrawal from U.S. gas stocks for the week ending Feb. 9, versus a year-ago withdrawal of 120 Bcf and a five-year average pull of 154 Bcf. Responses ranged from -162 Bcf to -207 Bcf.

Stephen Smith Energy Associates revised its estimate higher Tuesday to a withdrawal of 183 Bcf, versus a seasonally normal withdrawal of 147 Bcf based on 2006-2010 norms, according to the firm. PointLogic Energy called for a withdrawal of 179 Bcf, citing “significantly colder weather in the East and Midwest regions.” Kyle Cooper of ION Energy estimated a withdrawal of 186 Bcf.

Intercontinental Exchange futures for this week’s EIA report settled at -187 Bcf Wednesday, a bullish change versus Tuesday’s settlement of -184 Bcf. Last week, EIA reported a withdrawal of 119 Bcf.

NatGasWeather said its model was predicting a 185 Bcf pull Thursday.

“We expect deficits versus the five-year average will surge to over -410 Bcf after today’s storage report, but then will gradually drift back toward -350 Bcf by late in the month,” the firm said. “Again, there’s still plenty of time for frigid air out of Canada to push deep into the U.S., but every day it doesn’t convincingly show up in the weather maps, the more likely the markets remain annoyed.”

March crude oil was set to open about 20 cents lower at around $60.40/bbl, while March RBOB gasoline was up fractionally at around $1.7148/gal.