Crude oil turned higher on Tuesday amid choppy trading as traders looked ahead to the weekly inventory data from the Energy Information Administration.

Light sweet crude for May delivery ended at $49.66, up $1.05 for the session. After falling as low as $47.77, oil briefly touched $50 in afternoon trading.

Traders also looked forward to the release of the inventory data at 10:30 a.m. ET Wednesday. Last week's report showed crude oil inventories increased 3.3 million barrels in the week ended March 20.

On the economic front, a report showed that the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index for January fell 19.0 percent compared to the same month a year ago, reflecting an acceleration from the 18.6 percent year-over-year decline reported for December.

Later, a report released by the Institute for Supply Management - Chicago showed that the index of activity in the sector fell to 31.4 in March from 34.2 in February, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in the sector. Economists had been expecting the index to edge up to a reading of 34.3.

Meanwhile, the Conference Board's consumer confidence index edged up to 26.0 in March from a record low reading of 25.3 in February, although economists had been expecting a somewhat more significant increase by the index to a reading of 28.0.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Gary Stern said resolving the issue of too-big-to-fail should be among policymakers' highest priorities. Speaking at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., Stern discussed the roots of the current problem and urged action to mitigate the devastating effects of the failure of a systemically important institution.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Gary Stern said resolving the issue of too-big-to-fail should be among policymakers' highest priorities. Speaking at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., Stern discussed the roots of the current problem and urged action to mitigate the devastating effects of the failure of a systemically important institution.

Oil had lost nearly $6 in the two previous sessions as investors bet a recent rally was overdone. Oil had challenged $55 late last week.

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