The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported an on-target 88 Bcf withdrawal from natural gas storage inventories for the week ending Dec. 10, which had little initial impact on futures prices.

Ahead of the EIA report, a Bloomberg survey as of Wednesday produced a range of withdrawal estimates from 77 Bcf to 91 Bcf, with a median of 85 Bcf. Reuters polled 16 analysts, whose estimates ranged from withdrawals of 63 Bcf to 99 Bcf, with a median withdrawal of 88 Bcf. NGI modeled an 89 Bcf pull.

The January Nymex gas futures contract was trading 8.4 cents higher day/day at $3.886/MMBtu in the minutes leading up to the EIA’s 10:30 a.m ET report. As the 88 Bcf figure crossed trading desks, the prompt month slipped to $3.879 and by 11 a.m. ET was back at $3.883, up 8.1 cents from Wednesday’s close.

Bespoke Weather Services called the EIA’s 88 Bcf draw “another neutral number” versus expectations, however, it does still reflect that the market is tight when adjusted for weather. As important, it still sets the stage for a rally in a couple of weeks into January contract expiration if weather models can hold on to any colder risks, according to the forecaster.

“Until then, the market may well continue to just chop around,” Bespoke said.

The 88 Bcf withdrawal compared with last year’s 118 Bcf draw and the five-year 114 Bcf average pull, according to EIA.

Broken down by region, the Midwest led with a solid 37 Bcf withdrawal and the East followed with a 25 Bcf pull, EIA said. The South Central recorded a 13 Bcf draw, which was solely from nonsalt facilities. Salt inventories saw no net change.

Speaking on The Desk’s online energy chat Enelyst, managing director Het Shah said he was a bit surprised that salt inventories were flat week/week. “I was expecting a small injection of 1-2 Bcf.”

This is notable because salt inventories have been withdrawing in recent weeks, ahead of when pulls typically begin in the region. In addition, the South Central is home to the vast majority of liquefied natural gas export facilities and multiple intrastate pipelines, for which data is not widely available.

Elsewhere across the country, Mountain stocks fell by 7 Bcf, and Pacific stocks slipped by 5 Bcf, according to EIA.

Total working gas in storage as of Dec. 10 stood at 3,417 Bcf, which is 326 Bcf below year-ago levels and 64 Bcf below the five-year average, the agency said.