Updated from 1:54 a.m. EST
Crude oil prices fell Wednesday after the release of closely watched weekly inventory data.
The March futures contract closed down 86 cents to $48.78 a barrel, after closing above $49 Tuesday for the first time since Nov. 29.
Energy Department data showed an increase in crude oil but a decline in gasoline and distillate products.
Traders continue to speculate on the possibility that OPEC members would agree to a second round of production cuts at its Jan. 30 meeting, having trimmed output by 1 million barrels a day as of Jan. 1.
The upcoming elections in Iraq at the end of the month also are raising concerns about new sabotage attacks on the oil industry infrastructure there, a factor that helped boost prices during much of 2004.
Prices are now about 10% below their record high of some $55 a barrel touched in late October, having fallen close to $40 a barrel at the peak of the correction.