June natural gas is set to open a penny higher Thursday morning at $2.79 ahead of a government report that is expected to show seasonal additions to inventory but also is seen as a prelude to plump, perhaps burdensome, additions later. Overnight oil markets eased.

Traders will have all eyes on the screen when the Energy Information Administration (EIA) announces natural gas inventories at 10:30 a.m. EDT. Current thinking is that this will be the last injection of less than 100 Bcf before what are expected to be some monster 100-plus Bcf builds. This week’s build is about in line with historical averages, so no major changes to the year-on-year surplus or year-on-five-year deficits are expected.

Last year, 75 Bcf was injected, and the five-year pace is for a 68 Bcf increase. IAF Advisors calculates a 75 Bcf build, and Genscape splits the difference between its pipeline model and its supply-demand model. “Our estimate for [Thursday’s] EIA storage announcement is for a 79 Bcf injection for the week ended May 1, about 4 Bcf higher than last year’s same-week injection,” said analyst Tony Franjie. “Our pipeline-based model estimates an 82 Bcf injection, while our supply-demand model has a 61 Bcf. The S-D model has last week’s production at 73.5 Bcf/d and demand at 67.6 Bcf/d.”

Bentek Energy comes in somewhat lower at 73 Bcf utilizing its flow model, and said, “Demand picked up for the second week in a row, mostly due to stronger heating load centered in the East Region as a late-season cold snap pushed some additional demand into the region. The return of cold temperatures in the region cut storage activity at many of the fields within Bentek’s sample, and higher net outflows from the Producing Region indicate that more volumes went to feed demand than previous weeks.”

Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective calculates a 70 Bcf injection but for the next three weeks is looking for builds of 131, 121, and 139 Bcf which will take the current year-on-five-year deficit of 75 Bcf to a surplus of 52 Bcf by May 22. He sees the market as a contest between short-covering and whether the anticipated hefty supply build can “put a cap back on prices.” Evans is currently nursing a long position in the June futures contract established at $2.514 when the May contract expired and recommends stop protection at $2.59.

In overnight Globex trading June crude oil fell 13 cents to $60.80/bbl and June RBOB gasoline shed a penny to $2.0260/gal.