As traders prepared for a potential market-moving weekly inventory report, one that could provide further insight into how leaner production is affecting balances, natural gas futures pulled back early Thursday.

Coming off modest gains in recent sessions, the May Nymex contract was down 5.1 cents to $1.834/MMBtu as of 8:55 a.m. ET.

Estimates for the latest U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET, point to a somewhat lighter-than-average injection into Lower 48 inventories for the week ending April 5.

A Reuters survey produced a median injection of 11 Bcf, with estimates ranging from a single-digit withdrawal to a 16 Bcf build. Injection estimates submitted to Bloomberg went as high as 18 Bcf, with the lowest estimate showing no...