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US crude settles down 78 cents at 2-month low of $43.20

U.S. crude settled down 78 cents at a two-month low of $43.20 a barrel on Tuesday, as oil fell for a third straight session on the persistent global supply glut ahead of U.S. data expected to show another increase in crude inventories.

Crude futures felt pressure from analyst expectations that U.S. crude inventories rose last week, a fifth consecutive build after gaining 22 million barrels in a four-week span.

At 476.6 million barrels, U.S. crude stocks on Oct. 16 were nearly 100 million barrels above where they were in the year-ago period, according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.

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Brent for December delivery had fallen 70 cents to $46.84 a barrel by 2:35 p.m. EDT (1835 GMT), having earlier fallen more than $1 to $46.41, the lowest since mid-September.

Natural gas prices were up 1.7 percent at $2.098, having earlier broken below $2 for the first time since 2012. The contract for November fell nearly 10 percent in the previous session on forecasts of warmer winter weather.

Pumpjacks operating near Ruehlermoor, Germany.
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Pumpjacks operating near Ruehlermoor, Germany.

Front-month U.S. RBOB gasoline and ultra-low sulfur diesel for November delivery seesawed in volatile trading on the day contract options expire.

"It's still the supply glut weighing on crude and the products are going to a bit volatile with options expiration," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

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While stocks of distillates, which include diesel and jet fuel, were expected have dropped 2 million barrels last week, storage utilization for distillates in the United States and Europe is nearing historic highs, Goldman Sachs said on Monday.

The latest U.S. inventory snap shots from industry group American Petroleum Institute (API) are due later on Tuesday, with EIA data to follow on Wednesday.

U.S. crude oil production cuts — from a peak of around 9.6 million barrels per day (bpd) to around 9.1 million — and optimism over demand have failed to translate into higher prices, said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at Sydney's CMC Markets.

The difference between the price of oil for immediate delivery and the price for supply a year from now was at its widest in more than six months, reflecting investors' perception that supply is should tighten in the future.

"It continues to show excess (supply) in the market in this quarter and going forward ... it's only really in the last quarter of next year when we could potentially see some rebalancing of the market," Natixis commodity strategist Abhishek Deshpande said.

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Investors awaited the outcomes of key policy talks this week, including a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting that starts later on Tuesday and China's fifth plenum, a meeting of the Communist Party's central committee, that began on Monday.

Oil prices could get support from short-covering if investors think the Fed will take a dovish view towards interest rates at its meeting, Spooner said.