With forecasts shedding weather-driven demand overnight, the February natural gas futures contract plunged below $3 in early trading Thursday as the market prepared to digest the latest round of government inventory data.

The February Nymex contract was down 24.9 cents to $2.818/MMBtu at around 8:45 a.m. ET, while March was trading 17.2 cents lower at $2.743.

Surveys show the market expecting another lighter-than-average January storage withdrawal from the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 10:30 a.m. ET natural gas storage report, which covers inventory changes during the period ended Jan. 20.

Bloomberg’s poll as of Wednesday found estimates spanning decreases of 76 Bcf to 91 Bcf, with a median of 82 Bcf. Responses to Reuters’ survey ranged from withdrawals of...