Oil finished a volatile session slightly higher on Wednesday as Energy Information Administration data revealed a weekly inventory build was less than the expectations of analysts.
Light sweet crude oil ended at $49.40 per barrel, up 25 cents. Prices had dropped as low as $47.37 but later turned as high as $51.30 on the inventory data.
U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased 1.7 million barrels from the previous week. Economists were looking for a build in inventories of about 2.3 million barrels in the week ended April 3.
At 361.1 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 increased 600,000 barrels last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 3.4 million barrels and propane/propylene inventories increased last week by 1.3 million barrels.
On Tuesday after the close of floor trading, the American Petroleum Institute's crude oil inventory report revealed a build of 6.9 million barrels to 364.7 million in the recent week. Participation in the survey is voluntary, while refineries are required to report for the EIA data.
In the afternoon, traders looked for the release of the minutes of the March Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which said that committee members remain concerned about downside risks to an already weak outlook for economic activity.
The minutes showed that nearly all of the meeting participants felt that economic conditions had deteriorated relative to their expectations at the time of the January meeting.
Earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Association revealed that its market index of mortgage application volume rose 4.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week of April 3rd, following a 3 percent rise last week. The Market Composite Index was 1250.6 compared to 1194.4 in the previous week.
Later, a Commerce Department report showed that wholesale inventories fell 1.5 percent in February following a revised decrease of 0.9 percent in January. Economists had expected inventories to fall by 0.6 percent compared to the 0.7 percent decrease originally reported for the previous month.
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