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Updated from 1:16 p.m. EDT

Crude oil prices jumped Wednesday after two closely watched reports on weekly inventories showed another decline.

The benchmark U.S. crude closed up $1.59, or 3.4%, at $48.35 -- about a dollar shy of its record high -- in regular floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Effective today, the focus of trading shifts to the November futures contract. The October contract expired on Tuesday, having gained ground in four straight sessions largely because of reductions in Gulf of Mexico production in the wake of Hurricane Ivan.

Both the American Petroleum Institute and the Department of Energy are reported that U.S. stockpiles fell again in the most recent week, reflecting the impact of Hurricane Ivan. Data last week put inventories at a five-month low.

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Prices are back at late August levels, after a steep 15% correction. Prices routinely hit record highs in the first three weeks of the month, when prices rose almost 20% and hit a record intraday high of $49.40 on Aug. 20.

The latest gains in crude prices come despite the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' decision last Wednesday to increase its official production ceiling another 1 million barrels a day, or about 4%. The increase, following two previous ones earlier in the summer totaling 2.5 million barrels a day, puts the cartel's output level at 27 million barrels a day. Given chronic cheating on individual quotas, the increase in the ceiling is largely symbolic.

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