A moderating forecast for mid-June temperatures kept the pressure on natural gas futures early Thursday as traders awaited the latest round of government inventory data. The July Nymex contract was down 1.0 cents to $3.065/MMBtu at around 8:50 a.m. ET.

NGI Morning Natural Gas Price & Markets Coverage

Estimates for this week’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET, have been wide ranging. Major surveys show consensus clustering around a build in the mid-90s Bcf.

Reuters polled 17 analysts, whose estimates ranged from a build of 86 Bcf to 107 Bcf, with a median of 95 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey of 11 analysts had a tighter range of projections and landed at a median of 94 Bcf. The average estimate of a Wall Street Journal poll also was 94 Bcf. NGI modeled a 95 Bcf injection for the upcoming report, which covers the week ended May 28.

“It was cooler than normal over the West and far southern U.S., while warmer than normal across the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic” during this week’s report period, according to NatGasWeather. “We expect a build of 98 Bcf, slightly bearish versus survey averages.”

In the near-term, price signals for natural gas futures are mixed, according to analysts at EBW Analytics Group.

“While hot weather is still expected to begin this weekend, the natural gas market has most likely already priced in the heat wave and is likely to focus increasingly on forecasts for mid-June, when the heat could dissipate,” the EBW analysts said in a note to clients early Thursday.

Where this morning’s EIA print lands could influence what happens next for prices.

“We expect a build slightly above the upper end of the survey range” around 94-96 Bcf, the EBW analysts said. “A build above 100 Bcf, though, if it occurs, could trigger a sell-off.”

Looking at the updated forecast early Thursday, the major weather models trended slightly cooler overnight for the June 13-17 time frame, NatGasWeather said.

Markets are likely to view projections for this period as “not quite hot enough,” according to the firm.

“The overnight data remained hot enough before then…as upper high pressure rules most of the U.S. besides the cooler West Coast” from Sunday through June 12, NatGasWeather said. However, over the prior 24 hours models lowered cooling demand expectations for June 13-17 “by weakening strong upper high pressure enough to drop temperatures by several degrees over much of the country for more seasonal demand.”

July crude oil futures were up 9 cents to $68.92/bbl at around 8:50 a.m. ET, while July RBOB gasoline was off fractionally to $2.1912/gal.