December natural gas futures were trading 4.0 cents lower at $3.515/MMBtu shortly before 9 a.m. ET Thursday, with forecasters pointing to overnight guidance showing warmer trends once winter cold this week and next has run its course.

The European model advertised further warmer trends overnight, including a quicker transition to warmer conditions following medium-range cold, according to Bespoke Weather Services. The firm said it favors further warming trends in the nine to 15 day outlook that could see prices test $3.45 or lower but added that balances appear slightly more supportive.

Bespoke said it would view any print below 60 Bcf from Thursday’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report as “fairly supportive. Canadian imports remain near lows and production is off highs as burns have been revised slightly tighter even with nuclear outages ticking lower, making the balance picture somewhat tighter today.

“This may help prices defend $3.45 short-term even if we continue losing” gas-weighted degree days in the Week 2 outlook period, “especially with risks of some cold returning Week 3,” the firm said.

Estimates for Thursday’s EIA report have been pointing to a somewhat larger-than-average build.

A Reuters survey of 18 market participants showed respondents anticipating a 58 Bcf build into U.S. gas stocks for the week ended Nov. 2, with predictions ranging from 53 Bcf to 65 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey produced a median build of 59 Bcf, with a range of 53 Bcf to 65 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange EIA financial weekly index futures settled Wednesday at 59 Bcf.

Last year, EIA recorded a 22 Bcf build for the period, and the five-year average is an injection of 48 Bcf.

Market participants could be looking to this week’s EIA report, set for release at 10:30 a.m. ET, as a “litmus test” to assess the tightness of the market, according to EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman.

“A small miss from the consensus forecast will signify little, but still might impact prices this morning,” Weissman said. “The more important question though is how the market reacts this afternoon or tomorrow when the dust is settled after the release of the report. It would not be surprising if hedge funds are waiting until the noise caused by the release is over before expanding long positions.

“If the report is neutral or bullish and hedge funds jump in this afternoon or tomorrow, further gains are possible.”

December crude oil was trading close to even at $61.60/bbl shortly before 9 a.m. ET, while December RBOB gasoline was up fractionally to $1.6507/gal.