In its weekly release, Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. ( BHI ) reported a dip in the U.S. rig count (number of rigs searching for oil and gas in the country). This fall can be traced back to a decrease in the tally of gas-directed rigs, partially offset by higher oil rig count.
The Baker Hughes data, issued since 1944, acts as an important yardstick for energy service providers in gauging the overall business environment of the oil and gas industry.
Analysis of the Data
Weekly Summary: Rigs engaged in exploration and production in the U.S. totaled 1,854 for the week ended Jun 13, 2014. This was down by 6 from the previous week's rig count and indicates the second decrease in as many weeks.
Despite this, the current nationwide rig count is more than double the lowest level reached in recent years (876 in the week ended Jun 12, 2009) and is above the prior-year level of 1,771. It rose to a 22-year high in 2008, peaking at 2,031 in the weeks ending Aug 29 and Sep 12.
Rigs engaged in land operations descended by 7 to 1,780, offshore drilling was up by 1 to 59 rigs, while inland waters activity remained steady at 15 units.
Natural Gas Rig Count: Natural gas rig count decreased for the second successive week to 310 (a drop of 10 rigs from the previous week). As per the most recent report, the number of natural gas-directed rigs is at their lowest level since May 21, 1993 and is down 62% from its recent peak of 811, achieved in 2012.
In fact, the current natural gas rig count remains 81% below its all-time high of 1,606 reached in late summer 2008. In the year-ago period, there were 353 active natural gas rigs.
Oil Rig Count: The oil rig count was up by 6 to 1,542. The current tally - the highest since Baker Hughes started breaking up oil and natural gas rig counts in 1987 - is way above the previous year's rig count of 1,413. It has recovered strongly from a low of 179 in June 2009, rising 8.6 times.
Miscellaneous Rig Count: The miscellaneous rig count (primarily drilling for geothermal energy) at 2 was down by 2 from the previous week.
Rig Count by Type: The number of vertical drilling rigs fell by 1 to 388, while the horizontal/directional rig count (encompassing new drilling technology that has the ability to drill and extract gas from dense rock formations, also known as shale formations) was down by 5 to 1,466. In particular, horizontal rig units - that reached an all-time high of 1,251 in May 2014 - decreased by 2 from the last week's level to 1,248.
Gulf of Mexico (GoM): The GoM rig count was up by 1 to 57. Oil drilling fell by a unit to 45 rigs, while gas drilling increased from their week-ago level by 2 to 12.
A Key Barometer of Drilling Activity: An increase or decrease in the Baker Hughes rotary rig count heavily weighs on the demand for energy services - drilling, completion, production etc. - provided by companies that include large-cap names like Halliburton Co. ( HAL ) and S chlumberger Ltd. ( SLB ).
However, our preferred pick in this group is C&J Energy Services Inc. ( CJES ). The Houston, TX-based firm - sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) - has a solid secular growth story with potential to rise significantly from the current level.
Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free reportBAKER-HUGHES (BHI): Free Stock Analysis ReportSCHLUMBERGER LT (SLB): Free Stock Analysis ReportHALLIBURTON CO (HAL): Free Stock Analysis ReportC&J ENERGY SVCS (CJES): Free Stock Analysis ReportTo read this article on Zacks.com click here.Zacks Investment Research