NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Crude futures traded below the $83 a barrel mark Tuesday during a listless session ahead of weekly inventory data. The May delivery contract for crude traded as high as $82.74 a barrel but also dipped below the $82 level at its lowest point, at $81.77. The contract settled up by 20 cents, or 0.2%, at $82.37 a barrel. Macroeconomic reports showed improvements across the housing and consumer sectors, which may have given a lift to prices in the morning.
Consumer confidence rose more than expected in March, according to the Conference Board, and home prices in Case-Shiller's latest 20-city index edged up 0.3% in January after seasonal adjustments. Still, the assessment was mixed, as prices fell 0.4% without the seasonal effects. After the close of trading the American Petroleum Institute reported a 421,000 barrel build up to crude oil inventories for the week ended March 26. Analysts polled by Platts had been expecting an increase of 2.65 million barrels. Wednesday morning brings the government's supply numbers when the Energy Information Administration releases its report at 10:30 a.m. ET. Analysts polled by Platts will also be looking for gasoline inventories to shed 2 million barrels and distillates to decline by 1.2 million barrels. After leading the major market averages higher on Monday, oil-related stocks lacked direction during Tuesday's session although both the NYSE Arca Oil index and the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index rose 0.3%. Chevron ( CVX), ConocoPhillips ( COP) and Suncor Energy ( SU) all rose, by 0.09%, 0.2% and 3.2%, respectively. Exxon Mobil ( XOM), Royal Dutch Shell ( RDS) and BP ( BP), meanwhile, were all down by less than 1%. Natural gas producers also saw a mixed session. Chesapeake Energy ( CHK) and Anadarko Petroleum ( APC) climbed 1.1% and 1.2%, respectively. Gastar Exploration ( GST), Southwestern Energy ( SWN) and XTO Energy ( XTO) lost 2.8%, 1.3%, and 0.4%. The May delivery natural gas contract, meanwhile added 6 cents, or 1.5%, to settle at $3.97 per million British thermal units. Also on the Nymex, May heating oil added less than a penny, or 0.1%, to settle at $2.13 a gallon and the May gasoline contract gained a penny, or 0.4%, to settle at $2.27 a gallon. --Written by Sung Moss and Melinda Peer in New York.