July natural gas is set to open a penny higher Thursday morning at $2.60 as traders see no change in the weather landscape and await the release of government inventory figures. Overnight oil markets dropped.

Traders are looking for the Thursday morning Energy Information Administration (EIA) inventory report to possibly provide leverage to lift futures higher. “That $2.60 to $2.62 area is key. If we get a bullish number Thursday, I would like to see $2.75 to $2.80; $2.80 is a push,” a New York floor trader told NGI. “If we get a bigger draw than expected, the market will go.”

The market was certainly a “go” last week as the reported 65 Bcf injection caught traders and analysts by surprise. Industry estimates were coming in around the mid to high 70 Bcf mark, but all indications are that there were no errors or adjustments to the numbers. “65 Bcf? What was that all about?” said John Sodergreen, publisher of Energy Metro Desk (EMD).

“Very good question. EIA asserts that there was no funny stuff or mistakes in the process last week, and the number stands at 65 Bcf, like it or lump it. A 10 Bcf miss? Sure enough. The bulls seemed to like the surprise report, but the rest of us were left scratching our heads.”

Nonetheless, the pattern of below-average storage builds continues. The EMD survey this week comes in at a 67 Bcf build, about in line with the industry average. Last year 96 Bcf was withdrawn and the five-year pace stands at a hefty 87 Bcf.

First Enercast Financial calculates a 61 Bcf injection, and the folks at ICAP Energy are looking for a 69 Bcf increase. A Reuters survey of 23 traders and analysts showed an average 64 Bcf with a range of 57 to 70 Bcf.

Weather models changed little overnight. “The big picture this morning shows mostly minor changes to the forecast from yesterday,” said Commodity Weather Group in its Thursday morning outlook. “Some slightly cooler adjustments in the Midwest to East for next week’s six-10 day offset some slightly hotter changes in the West where we add one extra day of 100 degrees to Sacramento and shift Vegas a bit hotter too. The South is mostly flat for the one-10 day range, but we make some slightly warmer to hotter changes there (mainly deep South and Southeast) in the 11-15 day,” said Matt Rogers, president of the firm. .

In overnight Globex trading July crude oil dropped 87 cents to $47.12/bbl and July RBOB gasoline fell a penny to $1.4963/gal.