August natural gas is set to open unchanged Thursday morning at $2.86 even though traders anticipate the release of well below-average storage data and a supportive weather environment. Overnight oil markets fell.

Weather forecasts overnight changed little with expectations of a broad ridge of high pressure and anticipated warm temperatures expected to persist with minor incursions of weather systems forecast to temporarily drop temperatures and knock natural gas demand back to normal. It’s next week when things are expected to heat up, literally.

In a noon Wednesday update, said that “as the strong ridge of hot high pressure over the West strengthens and expands over the northern and eastern U.S. next week, above-normal temperatures of upper 80s to 100s are expected to become widespread over a majority of the country. This will result in stronger than normal natgas demand and should keep warm/red/bullish colors over vast stretches of the country in eight-15 day outlook maps, although with subtle daily changes that could switch some areas briefly to neutral/normal.

“Going forward, the next weather focus for the natgas markets will be on just how long hotter than normal conditions can last over the northern and eastern U.S. We expect the strong upper ridge to hold over a majority of the country going into mid-July. However, there could be a couple days of minor cooling over the northeastern U.S. around July 10th that will need monitoring.”

Traders Wednesday saw the market poised to break through $3, possibly on the release of presumably bullish storage figures in the 10:30 a.m. EDT Energy Information Administration storage report. “The base the market has built has held and traders were able to lift it higher. I think they will pop it over $3,” a New York floor trader told NGI.

Last year 73 Bcf was injected and the five-year pace stands at 78 Bcf. Houston-based IAF Advisors calculates a lean 37 Bcf injection, and industry consultant Bentek Energy’s flow model sees a 44 Bcf increase. A Reuters poll of 21 traders and analysts revealed an average 46 Bcf with a range of 37 to 54 Bcf.

In overnight Globex trading August crude oil fell 94 cents to $48.94/bbl and August RBOB gasoline gave up a penny to $1.5249/gal.