May natural gas is expected to open 3 cents lower Thursday morning at $2.01 as traders largely discount what is expected to be a bullish government inventory report. Overnight oil markets rose.

Estimates of the 10:30 a.m. EDT Energy Information Administration storage report are coming in right around flat, but any way you slice it it is likely to come across as bullish. Last year, a stout 49 Bcf was injected, and the five-year average is for a 22 Bcf build.

John Sodergreen, publisher of Energy Metro Desk, says his survey came in at +2 Bcf with a range of -9 Bcf to +12 Bcf. “While demand was up nicely week/week due to the weather – about 20% colder than the week prior – production and imports from Canada were healthy, offsetting much of that storage draw. Many folks think it may be much lower than the editor’s 5 Bcf handle.

“Last year, the EIA reported a surprise injection of about 10 Bcf higher than market expectations. This year, this week, the odds are for a lower report than the consensus, but, in our view the weather man just didn’t deliver that result. Our GWDD Model came in at +1 Bcf.”

Other estimates include Stephen Smith Energy at a -7 Bcf and PIRA Energy at +4 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 23 traders and analysts revealed an average of 0 Bcf with a range of -14 Bcf to +10 Bcf.

Market technicians suggest bulls be patient. “Only one way to signal the up trend is intact, clear resistance,” said Brian LaRose, technical analyst with United ICAP in closing comments Wednesday. “That requires a push through the $2.059-2.097-2.0112 zone. Successfully clear resistance and the bulls have a green light to proceed up to $2.324-2.400 next, our seasonal target. In the event the bulls can not punch through resistance, further consolidation near the highs becomes possible.”

The weather picture is interesting, especially in the West, but unlikely to materially alter supply demand balances. “The calendar may say April, but a major snowstorm will target parts of the Rockies and High Plains this weekend, with the potential for feet of snow and strong winds that could snarl travel and cause power outages, said Jon Erdman, meteorologist with

“The instigator for this is a classic upper-level low pressure system that eventually becomes cut off from the jet stream and parks itself over the Four Corners region for several days starting this weekend. The atmospheric ingredients for the weekend Rockies snowstorm are on the east side of that swirling, slow-moving low, deep moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will be pulled northwestward in what’s called a “warm conveyor belt” into the High Plains and Front Range of the Rockies.”

In overnight Globex trading May crude oil added 17 cents to $41.93/bbl, and May RBOB gasoline rose a half cent to $1.5354/gal.