Updated from 1:32 p.m. EST

The energy sector was choppy Wednesday after two different government reports sent conflicting messages, and prices ended mixed.

One revealed higher-than-normal gasoline demand, while the other said petroleum inventories are on the rise.

Front-month futures contracts for light, sweet crude added 33 cents to close at $55.37 a barrel. Natural gas prices were off 18 cents at $7.42 per million British thermal units. Heating oil was unchanged at $1.58 a gallon, and gasoline gained a penny at $1.46 a gallon.

Out at 10:30 a.m. EST was news that inventories of crude oil totaled 322 million barrels last Friday, up 0.2% compared with a week earlier, according to new data from the Energy Information Administration.

Stocks of gasoline and distillate fuel oils climbed, too, disappointing the consensus, which had been looking for a dip.

"We are supposed to have a draw-down of distillate inventories this time of year," says Jeff Kleintop, chief investment strategist at Philadelphia-based PNC Wealth Management. Such products are typically consumed to heat buildings during the typically cooler Northern hemisphere winter.

The EIA's morning release sent the energy complex lower, but then at 1 p.m. EST the same organization revealed that gasoline was being used at slightly high rates. That was enough to pull crude back up from an intraday low of $53.66.

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