As analysts continued to digest the implications of a lighter-than-expected weekly storage injection, natural gas futures were trading a few pennies higher early Friday. The July Nymex contract was up 3.0 cents to $1.852/MMBtu at around 8:45 a.m. ET.

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday reported an injection of 102 Bcf natural gas storage for the week ending May 29, coming in at the low end of market estimates.

The 102 Bcf injection compares with the 118 Bcf increase in storage recorded in the same week a year earlier and the five-year average build of 103 Bcf. The latest build lifted inventories to 2,714 Bcf, above the year-earlier level of 1,952 Bcf and the five-year average of 2,292 Bcf.

“For the fourth week out of five U.S. gas storage reported a triple-digit build…Next week storage should shed a digit, as record seasonal heat through several regions of the U.S. resulted in daily power burn pushing 36 Bcf this week, levels not typically seen until July,” analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH) said.

However, triple-digit weekly injections could return “if cool forecasts hold” and if liquefied natural gas feed gas demand drops into the low 4 Bcf/d range, the TPH analysts said.

“Taking an early look at next week, our preliminary forecast is for an injection of 92 Bcf, which would be in line with seasonal norms,” they said.

Meanwhile, the overnight guidance saw a mix of adjustments that resulted in only “negligible” changes to the overall 15-day gas-weighted degree day total, according to Bespoke Weather Services.

“The pattern stays in variable mode, skewed to the hotter than normal side over next week, followed by a cooler period as an upper level trough passes through the Midwest and East,” Bespoke said. “We do not expect the cooler weather to hold, given the lowering of global angular momentum, signifying a move toward more of a La Nina base state.

However, “the ends of the model runs are not yet indicating the return of heat just yet, something we expect to see as we head into the final third of June,” the forecaster said. “In the nearer term, we still have Tropical Storm Cristobal to deal with, which is still projected to make landfall Sunday in Louisiana.”

Cristobal is expected to be “a big rainmaker for parts of the South,” which could lead to lower demand heading into early next week, according to Bespoke.

As of early Friday Cristobal was delivering “heavy rains and flooding” over southern Mexico and Central America, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“A turn toward the north with a slight increase in forward speed is expected later today, and a general northward motion is forecast to continue through Sunday,” the forecaster said.

July crude oil futures were up $1.58 to $38.99/bbl at around 8:45 a.m. ET, while July RBOB gasoline was up about 4.6 cents to $1.1954/gal.