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US crude settles 9 cents higher at $44.98 after up-and-down election-day session

Oil workers
Diego J. Robles | The Denver Post | Getty Images

Oil prices seesawed on Tuesday, as U.S. stock markets edged higher and voters headed to the polls to elect the next president of the United States.

A retreat in U.S. stock index futures earlier in the session and a pickup in the dollar put some pressure on oil futures.

In a swell of investor risk appetite, U.S. stocks racked up their biggest one-day gain since March on Monday, which fed into an easing in the dollar that underpinned more risk-linked assets such as oil, copper and European equities on Tuesday.

The most recent polls have put Democrat Hillary Clinton ahead of Republican rival Donald Trump in Tuesday's election. Clinton is seen by investors as offering greater certainty and stability.

Brent January crude oil futures fell 23 cents to $45.92 a barrel by 2:44 p.m. ET, off a session peak of $46.69, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled up 9 cents to $44.98.

Both contracts are still down around 3.5 percent week-on-week, but above the six-week lows struck on Friday.

"All that has fed into the uplift and now we're probably going to be at a standstill until the (election results) numbers begin to filter in," BNP Paribas global head of commodity strategy Harry Tchilinguirian said.

"Now is just simply a period for waiting and inasmuch as OPEC came out with its annual oil market report, the focus of the market right now is people are positioned, waiting for the election to pass."

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries forecast demand for its oil will rise in the next three years, suggesting its 2014 decision to let prices fall to curb costlier rival supplies is delivering higher market share.

"OPEC raising its forecasts, ordinarily a positive, but we're all obviously election-focused ... so I don't think that's driving (oil) as much as it normally would," Lawler said.

The group meets on Nov. 30 and has pledged to reach a deal on cutting output to try to erode a two-year-old global surplus.

But a series of member states asking to be exempt from any deal, along with questions over the likelihood of non-OPEC rival Russia joining in, have created doubt over OPEC's ability to deliver a meaningful cut.

"The emerging sense of disappointment surrounding the OPEC meeting in three weeks time is likely to prompt further financial investors to jettison their long positions, too," Commerzbank said in a note.

Mohammed Barkindo, secretary-general of OPEC, warned on Tuesday that failure to implement the agreement reached in Algiers in September to cut output would bring negative consequences to an already fragile oil industry.

"The fact that Barkindo feels a need to make such public statements suggests the membership remains divided on at least the details of an agreement," Citi Futures energy futures specialist Tim Evans said in a note.

In physical oil markets, U.S. pipeline companies with operations at the heart of the country's commercial oil industry at Cushing, Oklahoma, restarted on Monday after an earthquake triggered safety shutdowns.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) will release its data on U.S. oil inventories for the week ended Nov. 4 at 4:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) will release its weekly petroleum status report at 10:30 a.m. EST on Wednesday.

Analysts said they expect crude stocks to rise 1.1 million barrels, according to a Reuters poll.