Coming off heavy selling over the last few sessions, natural gas futures were trading close to even early Thursday as traders looked ahead to the release of the latest government storage data. The June Nymex contract was up 0.6 cents to $1.622/MMBtu at around 8:45 a.m. ET.

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The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) weekly storage inventory report, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET, is expected to show another triple-digit build for the week ending May 8. Last week, the EIA reported a 109 Bcf injection that boosted inventories to 2,319 Bcf, 796 Bcf above year-ago levels and 395 Bcf above the five-year average. June prices fell 5.0 cents last Thursday and then slipped another 7 cents on Friday.

This week, a Bloomberg survey of eight market analysts showed injection estimates ranging from 100 Bcf to 112 Bcf, with a median build of 107 Bcf. NGI, which nailed the EIA figure last week, projected a 113 Bcf injection.

This would compare with last year’s 100 Bcf build and the five-year average of 85 Bcf, according to EIA.

“Lower 48 state production continues to decrease but has yet to reach levels that would show strong enough tightening in the supply/demand balance to prevent hefty 100 Bcf-plus builds from continuing for the second half of May,” NatGasWeather said. “…It was cooler than normal across the northern and eastern U.S.” during this week’s report period, “while warmer than normal from California to Texas. Our algorithm predicts a build of 106 Bcf.”

Genscape Inc. analysts have estimated a 108 Bcf injection for the upcoming report. This reflects a composite of the firm’s supply and demand modeling, which showed a 113 Bcf build for the period, and its storage facility sample model, which predicted a 106 Bcf injection.

“If our estimate for a 108 Bcf injection is realized, it would be loose to the five-year same-date weather-adjusted average by about 4.5 Bcf/d,” the firm said.

After the front-month was “massacred again” in Wednesday’s trading, sliding 10.4 cents to settle at $1.616, prices could be due for a correction if EIA reports a build below survey averages, according to analysts at EBW Analytics Group. U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports remain key, they said.

“When 2020 began, LNG exports were expected to account for 10% of total U.S. demand,” the EBW analysts said. “If exports continue to decline from recent levels, as we think is likely, the near-month contracts could fall significantly further over the next few weeks.”

As for the overnight weather data, NatGasWeather said cooler trends over the East early next week carried over in the latest data. However, the pattern continues to show demand losses for May 21-27, the forecaster said.

June crude oil futures were up 51 cents to $25.80/bbl at around 8:45 a.m. ET, while June RBOB gasoline was up about 0.9 cents to around 86.2 cents/gal.