Crude oil prices rallied again in early trading and topped the $54 mark again. With the rally, oil recovered its losses from yesterday.

Light sweet crude for May settlement climbed to $54.20, up $1.42 for the day. Prices hit as high as $54.66, the best mark since early January.

A Commerce Department report showed that fourth quarter gross domestic product fell by a revised 6.3 percent, compared to the preliminary estimate of a 6.2 percent decrease. Economists had been expecting GDP to be revised to show a somewhat steeper 6.6 percent contraction.

The U.S. Labor Department announced initial jobless claims rose to 652,000 for the week ended March 20th, compared to the previous week's level of 644,000. Meanwhile, people continuing to collect unemployment rose to 5.56 million in the most recent data, compared to the previous mark of 5.438 million.

Crude dropped to $52.77 a barrel, down $1.21. Oil slipped as low as $51.86 after touching as high as $54.18 earlier in the day.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased 3.3 million barrels in the week ended March 20. Analysts were expecting a rise of about 1.2 million barrels. The build is the 22nd in 26 weeks.At 356.6 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.1 million barrels last week, and are in the upper half of the average range. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 1.6 million barrels.

The American Petroleum Institute reported Tuesday that crude oil inventories increased by 4.57 million barrels in the recent week. Gasoline inventories fell 805,000 barrels.

In other energy trading, natural gas for April delivery dropped 3.2 cents to $4.297 per million British thermal units. The EIA natural gas inventory report is expected at 10:30 a.m. ET.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com