May natural gas is expected to open 2 cents lower Thursday morning at $3.17 as neither expected near-term weather or anticipated government inventory figures give much incentive to make incremental purchases. Overnight oil markets rose.

Forecasters called for little change in their outlooks and see little in the way of significant shifts from current mild conditions. “Changes were mixed [Thursday] as the six-10 day continues to be quite the battleground between warmth from the South and cooling in Canada, with the war zone continuing to extend from the Midwest to the East Coast cities,” said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group, in a Thursday morning report to clients.

“Today’s trends are in the slightly warmer direction for this battleground area, but confidence has slipped a bit lower as a slight north or south shift next week can make a decent difference for temperatures. The West edges a bit cooler in the six-10 day but then back a bit warmer again in the 11-15 day. The 11-15 day is also a challenge for the Midwest, East and South, with mostly cooler changes today from the Midwest to the deep South and nearly flat/unchanged for the East Coast.”

Traders are expecting a somewhat bullish Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report if measured by the five-year pace of storage injections. Last year 1 Bcf was withdrawn, and the five-year pace is for a 12 Bcf build. ICAP Energy predicts a build of 7 Bcf, and Kyle Cooper of IAF Advisors is looking for a 6 Bcf increase. A Reuters survey of 21 traders and analysts revealed an average 9 Bcf injection with a range of +1 Bcf to +17 Bcf.

Analysts see something of a no-surprise storage report when the numbers hit trading desks at 10:30 a.m. EDT.

“This week’s report should look much like last week, or at least what we were expecting to see in last week’s report,” said John Sodergreen, editor of The Desk, in its weekly Tealeaves Report. “Our Early View report from last Friday came in at 9.5 Bcf and the median was 10 Bcf; the range was fairly wide for this time period at 5 to 15 Bcf.

“We don’t expect a surprise this week, but a build under 10 Bcf would be, well, surprising. The weather is sort of warmer than normal for many weeks ahead, so this spring shoulder period should be somewhat of a snoozer for storage.”

In overnight Globex trading May crude oil rose 10 cents to $53.21/bbl and May RBOB gasoline rose fractionally to $1.7429/gal.