Forecasts advertising hotter-trending temperatures in the near term helped natural gas futures continue to probe higher in early trading Friday. The July Nymex contract was up 1.3 cents to $3.431/MMBtu at around 8:45 a.m. ET.

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The updated forecast as of early Friday showed hotter trends for the next week or so, according to Bespoke Weather Services.

“This is in response to models backing the incoming trough more into the Plains and western Midwest, allowing for a stronger period of upper level ridging in the East and hotter temperatures at the surface, including a couple of days with mid 90s highs as far north as Boston next week,” Bespoke said.

Despite a “weak spot” for temperature deviations versus normal in the middle of the nation into Texas, national gas-weighted degree days are on track to approach record levels early next week, the firm said.

In terms of the gas supply/demand balance, should production return to recent highs, “which we feel is possible over the next few days,” prices could “finally put in at least a temporary top, perhaps once July expiration is over with on Monday,” Bespoke said. “Until that time, however, prices could continue to run higher.”

ICAP Technical Analysis analysts told clients they’re focusing on a “dense cluster” of technical targets from $3.500 up to $3.674 as the month draws to a close.

“Should natural gas reverse sharply from this area of contention” it could signal “peaking action and the start of a seasonal slide,” ICAP analyst Brian LaRose said. “Conversely, should natural gas blow through this area of contention we will be raising the bar. Gunning for $3.900-3.911-4.006-4.010 next in this scenario.”

Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday reported a lean 55 Bcf injection into storage, well below historical levels and also was a tick below the lowest estimate in major surveys ahead of the report.

Total working gas in storage as of June 18 stood at 2,482 Bcf, which is 513 Bcf below last year and 154 Bcf below the five-year average, according to EIA.

Coming in on the bullish side of both consensus predictions and the five-year average, this week’s EIA print set the stage for a “solid move across the forward curve,” analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH) said in a note to clients. 

Looking at regional storage trends, they highlighted a “surprise draw” of 4 Bcf in the EIA South Central region and a build in the Pacific that came in tight compared to historical norms.

“With Mexico exports continuing to run ahead of our modeling (7.5 Bcf/d week-to-date)” and liquefied natural gas exports returning to around 11 Bcf/d, “South Central appears likely to remain tight ahead of seasonal draws that perk up in July and August,” the TPH analysts said. This comes as “hot, hot, heat in the eight- to 14-day forecast appears likely to keep the Pacific market similarly tight.”

August crude oil futures were up 18 cents to $73.48/bbl at around 8:45 a.m. ET, while July RBOB gasoline was up fractionally to $2.2902/gal.