Natural gas prices climbed away from a 6 1/2-year low on Wednesday in U.S. trading. Investors awaited tomorrow's Energy Information Administration inventory report.

Natural gas for May delivery ended the day at $3.63 per million British thermal units, up 6.8 cents for the session.

Traders looked ahead to the EIA report, which is due at 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday. Last week's data showed natural gas stockpiles were unchanged in the week ended March 27.

Prices ended Tuesday at $3.562 per million British thermal units, down 17 cents on the session. This marked the lowest finish since Dept. 2002.

In other energy trading, 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 EIA inventory report.

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.

Wednesday 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.

For comments and feedback: contact