(U.S. drilling stock story, updated for latest U.S. rig count)
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The rumors of the death of the U.S. land drilling market were greatly exaggerated, and the latest drillers to benefit from the U.S. drilling market resilience are Bronco Drilling (BRNC) and Union Drilling (UDRL) with both stocks soaring on Friday after quarterly results that came in ahead of expectations.
Union Drilling ended trading on Friday up 28%, on what for it is huge volume of 462,000 shares traded -- Union Drilling has average daily volume of less than 50,000 shares. Bronco Drilling ended Friday up 10% on trading of 1.2 million shares, more than four times its average day's volume.
The upward trend in shares of the U.S. land drillers was extreme on Friday morning, but it was part of a trend that has sent these and other shares in the U.S. land drilling market to 52-week high levels since bottoming out last October.The 2010 backdrop for the U.S. land drillers was the bearish thesis that U.S. rig counts and pricing power had to slow, and margins erode, as the glutted natural gas market outweighed any incremental gains for oil-directed activity. The pricing peak, though, and rig count decline, haven't occurred, even though investors and analyst feared its arrival. In February, oil services company Baker-Hughes (BHI) reported that the number of rigs aiming for oil in the U.S. was at its highest level since 1987, which was twice last year's level of land-based U.S. oil rigs. On Friday, Baker-Hughes reported that the number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased again this week to 1,707 -- 899 rigs were exploring for gas and 801 for oil. A year ago, the count was 1,396. Bronco Drilling beat on both the top and bottom line on Friday morning, with earnings of 6 cents per share, versus the consensus estimate for a 1 cent loss, and with revenues rising 134.6% year over year to $37.3 million, versus the consensus at $36.7 million. Union Drilling, which was upgraded to a buy at Gabelli Securities on Friday, also beat its earnings bogey for the past quarter, by 10 cents, with a one cent loss, though revenue came in a little below the Wall Street mark.