WASHINGTON (DTN) -- New York Mercantile Exchange oil futures and Brent crude on the Intercontinental Exchange rallied in afternoon trade Tuesday, with front-month West Texas Intermediate futures setting above $39 barrel (bbl) on support from a weakening U.S. dollar and production shut-ins in the Gulf of Mexico as operators there continued to evacuate staff ahead of Tropical Storm Zeta.
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement reported Tuesday offshore producers in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico halted as much as 914,811 barrels per day (bpd) or nearly half of the total crude output in the region as Tropical Storm Zeta is now forecast to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane when it makes landfall along the Louisiana coastline late Wednesday. DTN Weather expects Zeta to bring as much as six inches of rain, resulting in dangerous surge and flooding along the Louisiana coastline.
Drawing support from the temporary cut in output, December WTI futures added $1.01 on the session to settle at $39.57 bbl and Brent crude on the Intercontinental Exchange gained 74 cents to finish at $41.20 bbl. January Brent futures widened its premium slightly to 40 cents ahead of the December contract's expiration Friday.
NYMEX November ULSD futures rallied 3.59 cents to settle at $1.1577 gallon, with December ULSD nearly erasing its premium to the November contract ahead of expiration Friday afternoon. November RBOB futures added more than 3 cents to settle at $1.1434 gallon with December futures at a 1.46-cent discount to the expiring contract.
Tuesday afternoon traders also positioned ahead of the weekly release of U.S. inventory data from the American Petroleum Institute due out 4:30 p.m. EDT, with expectations for combined crude and refined product supplies to have decreases during the week ended Oct. 23. Commercial crude oil inventories likely added 900,000 bbl and gasoline stockpiles are seen to have declined by 2 million bbl last week. Distillate fuel stocks are estimated to have been drawn down 2.2 million bbl last week.
Separately, markets are closely monitoring a second wave of coronavirus infections sweeping through the United States and the European Union, with the latest reports indicating French President Emmanuel Macron is now considering a total lockdown for the country should COVID-19 cases continue to rise. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly set to announce "a light-touch lockdown" Wednesday for the Eurozone's largest economy through year end. Earlier this week, the Czech Republic, Germany's neighbor, announced closure of national borders and all nonessential businesses and travel, plunging the country in what technically looks like a total nationwide lockdown from eight months ago.
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