Updated from 12:31 p.m. EST

Crude oil prices closed higher in a bouncy session Wednesday, breaking $46 a barrel after the release of U.S. data on energy inventories.

The February futures contract ended up 69 cents cents at $46.37 in Nymex floor trading, following a modest gain Tuesday.

Energy Department inventory data for the most recent week came in largely as expected, showing a 3-million-barrel decline in crude oil stocks and a 1.9-million-barrel increase in distillates, which include heating oil, a closely-watched commodity at this time of year.

With demand at a seasonal peak in the northern U.S., weather patterns frequently play a key role in determining prices.

Traders continue to speculate about whether OPEC will agree on another round of production cutbacks at its Jan. 30 meeting in Vienna, having already cut production by 1 million barrels a day at the beginning of this month.

The benchmark U.S. crude has been creeping higher in recent weeks after suffering a steep price correction that took it some 25% below the record price of $55 a barrel in late October.