Baker Hughes (BHI) said Friday, Aug. 12, that active U.S. rotary rigs were up for the seventh consecutive week to 481, a monster uptick of 17 rigs from last week's count of 464.
The results of the weekly rig report might not be a surprise to bullish investors who have seen the count climb more than 40 rigs in the past 6 weeks despite nascent commodity prices.
The uptick coalesces with the 18% rally oil prices have seen in the past two weeks, but could prove misleading for what's to come. Rig activity tends to lag the movement in oil prices, often by as much as a few months.
And while West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures were up more than 18% by midday Friday to $46.80 from their monthly low of $39.51 on Aug. 2, prices had fallen about 22% by Aug. 1 from their June 8 mark of $51.23 (the commodity's highest price since June 2015).
Given the precipitous two-month decline, historical trends indicate the ball is set to stop rolling for rigs in the coming weeks. Add in the ever-increasing efficiency of rigs due to technological advancements in the space, and you have less rigs needed for equal or greater volumes.
Moreover, the data could be further skewed by recent headlines calling for another possible prolonged commodity downturn due to lagging demand and a persisting global oversupply: It's easy to envision U.S. operators heeding these warnings and taking rigs offline in high-cost plays one week and adding them in low-cost, more economically productive regions, such as West Texas' Permian Basin another week.
Nevertheless, U.S. oil rigs were up a whopping 15 to 396, while U.S. natural gas rigs were back up by two to 83 after falling by five to 81 in the previous frame.
Miscellaneous rigs were flat at two, and Baker Hughes' U.S. offshore count also remained stable this week at 17, but is now down by 18 rigs year-over-year. Together, the U.S. oil and gas rig counts have netted an 18-rig increase through the first two weeks of August.
Some natural gas-levered players like Southwestern Energy (SWN) - Get Report have called for an uptick in rigs in the third quarter with improving gas prices, while other gas majors like Chesapeake Energy (CHK) - Get Reporthave gotten underway with massive restructuring of their asset portfolios to improve debt-laden balance sheets.
Natural gas futures were up more than 1% around mid-afternoon Friday, but were trending down from $2.62 per unit highs seen earlier in the day.
Baker Hughes has said it expects the North American rig count to slowly move higher, while the international rig count will remain pressured with pockets of strength in the Middle East and Russia.
Canadian production, gained four rigs this week, bringing the overall count to 126. Canadian oil rigs were up five to 65, while gas rigs were level at 60 and miscellaneous rigs fell from two to one.
Baker Hughes' U.S. rig tally is down 403 rigs from last year's mark of 884, with oil rigs down 276, gas rigs down 128, and miscellaneous rigs up 1.
The Canadian rig count is down 86 rigs from last year's level of 208, with oil rigs down 40, gas rigs down 48, and miscellaneous rigs up two.