Updated from 3:13 p.m. EST
Oil prices closed sharply lower Wednesday, after weekly data showed another gain in U.S. energy inventories.
The January futures contract fell $3.64 to $45.49 in Nymex floor trading, having flirted with $50 Tuesday for the second time in a week.
Prices also came under pressure because of a National Weather Service forecast calling for higher-than-normal temperatures in the week ahead at a time when ample heating oil supplies are considered a critical component of the market's equation.
Government and industry data for the week ended Nov. 26 showed sharp increases in crude oil, gasoline and petroleum distillate inventories, erasing short-term supply concerns.
The Energy Department said that crude inventories rose for the 10th week in a row, despite forecasts of a drop. Distillate supplies, which include heating oil, rose by 2.3 million barrels. Moreover, the American Petroleum Institute said distillate inventories rose by 4.4 million barrels.
The benchmark U.S. crude is now 17% below its record closing high of $55.17 touched in late October, when U.S. production was still hurting from the widespread disruption of Gulf of Mexico facilities caused by Hurricane Ivan.