Updated from 1:53 p.m. EST
Crude oil prices closed lower for a second day Thursday following the release of closely-watched inventory data late Wednesday.
The February futures contract lost 64 cents to $46.91 a barrel in Nymex floor trading. Prices also fell Wednesday ahead of Energy Department data, having risen above $49 as recently as Monday.
Inventories in the most recent week rose more than expected, posting the biggest gain in three months. Crude stocks rose by 3.54 million barrels. The data was released at 5 p.m. EST, rather than the usual 10:30 a.m. EST, because of the public holiday Monday.
Traders continue to speculate about whether OPEC will agree on another round of production cutbacks at its Jan. 30 meeting in Vienna, having already cut production by 1 million barrels a day at the beginning of this month.
The benchmark U.S. crude is up 10% this year after suffering a steep price correction that took it some 25% below the record price of $55 a barrel in late October.