U.S. natural gas prices plunged sharply in holiday-thinned trade on Thursday, as updated weather forecasting models for the first week of December pointed to a return to mild weather, prompting investors to bet that utilities and homes will burn less natural gas as demand for heating falls. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas for delivery in January fell by as much as 2.95% to touch a daily low of $4.274 per million British thermal units, before recovering to last trade at $4.280, down 12.3 cents, or 2.79%. Futures were likely to find support at $4.155 per million British thermal units, the low from November 24, and resistance at $4.529, the high from November 26. Forecasts for milder temperatures to settle in across much of the U.S. in early December after a blast of cold air exits weighed heavily on prices. Bearish speculators are betting on the mild weather to dampen demand for the heating fuel. The heating season from November through March is the peak demand period for U.S. gas consumption. Trade volumes were expected to remain light on Thursday, with U.S. markets closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. A day earlier, Nymex gas futures lost 4.8 cents, or 1.09% to settle at $4.355 as mild weather forecasts overshadowed the release of bullish weekly storage data. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report released Thursday that natural gas storage in the U.S. fell by 162 billion cubic feet last week, compared to expectations for a decline of 150 billion. The five-year average change for the week is a drop of 6 billion cubic feet. Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 3.432 trillion cubic feet as of last week, 9.2% below year-ago levels and nearly 10.4% below the five-year average for this time of year. The report came out one day earlier than usual due to the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the U.S. on Thursday. Elsewhere on the Nymex, crude oil for delivery in January lost $1.44, or 1.94%, to trade at a four-year low of $72.66 a barrel, while heating oil for January delivery dropped 1.71% to trade at $2.307 per gallon.