With coronavirus-related anxiety still hanging over the economy, natural gas futures were trading slightly lower early Thursday as traders prepared to turn their attention to the latest round of government storage data. The April Nymex contract was down 1.4 cents to $1.645/MMBtu as of 8:40 a.m. ET.

Estimates show traders and analysts expecting the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 10:30 a.m. report to reveal a lighter-than-average withdrawal for the week ending March 20.

A Bloomberg survey Wednesday showed a median prediction for a 30 Bcf withdrawal, while a Wall Street Journal poll showed an average estimate of minus 27 Bcf. A Reuters survey landed on a 25 Bcf withdrawal, matching the 25 Bcf pull predicted by NGI’s model. Estimates ranged from minus 14 Bcf to minus 36 Bcf.

Last year, EIA recorded a 39 Bcf pull for the similar week, and the five-year average is a withdrawal of 40 Bcf.

“It was much warmer than normal from Texas to the Mid-Atlantic coast, while slightly warmer than normal from Chicago to New York City” during this week’s EIA report period, NatGasWeather said. “Cooler exceptions occurred over the West Coast and Plains. Our algorithm expects a draw of 24 Bcf, likely neutral to expectations.

“It will be of interest to see what impact last week’s school and business closures had on today’s EIA number, as it appears to be minor.”

As for the overnight weather data, the forecaster noted slightly milder trends from the Global Forecast System but colder trends from the European dataset, focused on the northern United States from April 2-9.

Based on Wednesday’s price action and factoring in mild April weather, analysts at EBW Analytics Group saw little upside for prices for the April contract heading into Thursday’s session.

EBW said the front month is “likely to lose ground in its last two days of trading before contract termination tomorrow.” It further called for EIA’s report to show a lighter-than-expected draw, putting further pressure on prices.

“Irrespective of today’s storage number, however, next week’s report is likely to reflect a significant decline in demand, opening the door for natural gas prices to hit new lows,” EBW said.

May crude oil futures were off 75 cents to $23.74/bbl at around 8:40 a.m. ET, while April RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally higher at around 55.4 cents/gal.