January natural gas eked out marginal gains in early trading Friday as market participants weighed supportive inventory data against continued calls for mild December heating demand.

NGI Morning Natural Gas Price & Markets Coverage

The January Nymex contract was up 1.4 cents to $2.599/MMBtu at around 8:40 a.m. ET. February was up fractionally to $2.522. Contracts further along the strip fell into the red, however.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday reported a 117 Bcf withdrawal from domestic storage for the week ended Dec. 1. The print surprised to the bullish side of pre-report expectations and slashed the surplus to the five-year average to 234 Bcf, from 303 Bcf a week earlier.

Based on the latest EIA result, Wood Mackenzie analyst Eric McGuire estimated 2.6 Bcf/d of looseness versus the...