Update from 1:54 p.m. EDT
Crude oil prices rose from a three-week low, after losing almost 8% in the two previous sessions.
Based on preliminary data, the December futures contract closed 84 cents higher at $51.76 in regular floor trading on the Nymex.
The two-day slide came right after prices returned to their recent record high of more than $55.17 a barrel Monday. Prices hit a record intraday high of $55.67 that day as well, and are still up more than 70% this year.
Traders had been perpetually concerned about short-term supplies during a period of unusually strong global demand and historically low excess industry capacity, but concerns about supply appeared to have eased suddenly.
China's decision to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade Thursday fueled speculation that it will curb demand as its economy slows.
Wednesday's decline was the biggest one-day loss since June, as traders reacted to inventory data showing a sizable increase in both crude oil and gasoline stocks.