NEW YORK, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Benchmark Brent crude settled down on Tuesday on bets OPEC will not cut output to stem a supply glut when the world's biggest oil producers meet later this week, while U.S. crude steadied on expectations of a stockpile drop.
Expectations are high that Friday's meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna will choose to continue pumping crude at record levels to defend market share against non-member oil producers such as the United States and Russia.
The U.S. Labor Department's closely watched jobs data for November are also due on Friday. Stronger employment numbers could help the Federal Reserve decide on the first U.S. rate hike in nearly a decade, sending the dollar higher. That, and the likelihood of no OPEC cuts, could drive Brent below the $40-a-barrel mark, traders said.
"We see renewed selling after the OPEC meeting is defined since we expect oil balances to tilt further in a bearish direction amidst additional strengthening in the U.S. dollar," said Jim Ritterbusch of Chicago-based oil markets consultancy Ritterbusch & Associates.
Brent settled down 17 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $44.44 a barrel.
U.S. crude's West Texas Intermediate futures finished the session up 20 cents at $41.85.
While U.S. crude was also under pressure from the global oversupply in oil, it could see some reprieve if inventory numbers for oil in storage across the United States turn out to be lower than expected.
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