April natural gas is set to open 3 cents higher Thursday morning at $3.04 in advance of government figures that are expected to show usage to be well above historical norms. Overnight oil markets were mixed.

Overnight weather models moderated slightly, but forecasters have diminished confidence. “Most changes today were on the small side, but slightly warmer adjustments in the short range for the Midwest, South and West combined with warmer Midwest to South changes in the six-15 day range offer another loss in demand this morning,” said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group in a Thursday morning report to clients.

“Some slightly cooler changes are noted at times in the Northeast (like later next week) or in the West (like the 11-15 day), but their intensity is not enough to offset general demand loss trends over the past 24 hours. We lower our forecast confidence a notch today in the 11-15 day as we see bigger ensemble cluster divergence and increased uncertainty on the pattern type.”

Thursday’s storage numbers are coming in well into the triple digits and are currently in the 150 Bcf withdrawal area. Inventories are currently at 2,242 Bcf, and that would go a long way to bringing supplies back toward some semblance of historical alignment. Last year 13 Bcf was injected, and the five-year average rate is a 21 Bcf withdrawal.

“Fortunately, this week’s big draw and the past few will help greatly in carving away a huge bit of the gas storage overhang,” said John Sodergreen in The Desk. “We may be looking at an end-of-season tally under 2 Tcf after all, but the way things have been going, we wouldn’t bet a nickel on that trade. It will likely end up being a photo finish.

“Our weather desk column calls for a mixed bag of temperatures and energy over the next 10 days, but the trend is certainly warmer.”

For the week ended March 17, Wells Fargo estimates a withdrawal of 156 Bcf and Raymond James calculates a 138 Bcf pull. A Reuters survey of 26 traders and analysts revealed an average 150 Bcf decline with a range of -127 Bcf to -170 Bcf.

In overnight Globex trading May crude oil rose 19 cents to $48.23/bbl and May RBOB gasoline shed a penny to $1.6059/gal.