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Updated from 12:28 p.m. EST

Crude oil prices approached the $47-a-barrel level Wednesday morning after the release of weekly inventory data, showing some life amid a deep November slump.

The December futures contract of the benchmark U.S. crude closed 73 cents higher at $46.84 in Nymex floor trading, still some 17% below the record high of $55.17 touched in late October. Prices traded well below $46 at several points today in what was a bouncy session.

Data out in the morning showed another increase in U.S. crude stockpiles, reflecting the steady return of production in the Gulf of Mexico following widespread disruption from Hurricane Ivan in September. But gasoline and heating oil inventories fell for the week.

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Until the recent correction, prices touched records on a regular basis as traders worried about a variety of factors affecting short-term supply.

Attacks on Iraq's oil infrastructure -- including the most recent one Sunday -- have caused periodic production problems of varying consequence there. Threats to production in Norway, Russia, Venezuela and Nigeria also have been a factor.

Oil workers in Nigeria had authorized a strike for today, but it's unclear if the job action took place.