Updated from 2:10 p.m. EST
Crude oil prices closed sharply lower Wednesday as traders reacted to weekly U.S. inventory data showing an increase in crude oil and heating oil supplies.
The February futures contract was down $1.52 to $44.24 in Nymex floor trading, as the benchmark crude fell for the third straight day after a double-digit gain last week.
Energy Department data out this morning showed an unexpected increase in petroleum distillates, which include heating oil, as well as a big jump in crude oil inventories. Concerns about heating oil supplies with the onset of winter and unseasonably cold weather gave prices a huge boost last week, after they came close to falling through $40.
The one-week rally followed a steep two-month correction that had taken prices down 25% from their October record closing high of $55.17.