As traders prepared to digest a potential triple-digit injection from the latest round of government inventory data, and as weather models hinted at hot temperatures developing later this month, natural gas futures probed slightly higher early Thursday. The July Nymex contract was up 1.8 cents to $3.147/MMBtu at around 8:45 a.m. ET.

NGI Morning Natural Gas Price & Markets Coverage

Estimates have been pointing to an injection in the 90s to low 100s Bcf for this week’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) report, scheduled for release at 10:30 a.m. ET.

A Bloomberg survey of nine analysts produced an injection range between 91 Bcf and 104 Bcf, with a median forecast of 100 Bcf. A Wall Street Journal poll of 13 analysts had a wider range up to 111 Bcf, with an average build of 100 Bcf. Reuters polled 19 analysts, whose estimates ranged from a build of 90 Bcf to 110 Bcf, with a median injection of 97 Bcf.

NGI modeled a 100 Bcf build for the report, which covers changes during the week ended June 4. Last year EIA recorded a 95 Bcf injection for the similar period, and the five-year average is a build of 92 Bcf.

“There was record-setting heat over the West last week,” NatGasWeather said of this week’s EIA report period. However, temperatures were “mostly comfortable over the eastern half of the U.S. due to cooler than normal weather systems. We expect near 100 Bcf but with lower confidence due to the Memorial Day holiday.”

As for the latest forecasts, NatGasWeather said both the European and American models were little changed overnight.

“The overnight data maintained national demand easing slightly next week as weather systems track across the Great Lakes and East with highs of 60s to mid-80s,” the firm said. “…Ahead of the weekend break, the focus will turn to if a hotter U.S. pattern can set up June 23-27.” Both the American and European datasets “tease stronger demand” for this time frame “as upper high pressure over the West shifts across the southern U.S., while also warm across the northern U.S.”

Traders could be looking beyond this week’s storage report to the next two EIA prints, which would show the impact of current heat over central and southern portions of the country on inventories, according to NatGasWeather.

Midday weather model runs could have a significant effect on price moves intraday, according to analysts at EBW Analytics Group.

“This morning’s storage report, though, could have just as much impact,” the EBW analyst said. “Major surveys predict a build close to 100 Bcf. A substantially higher injection could result in a re-test of support as low as $3.05. A much lower build is unlikely.”

July crude oil futures were up 35 cents to $70.31/bbl at around 8:45 a.m. ET, while July RBOB gasoline was up about 1.7 cents to $2.2196/gal.