In its weekly release, Houston-based oilfield services company
Baker Hughes Inc.
) reported an unchanged U.S. rig count (number of rigs searching
for oil and gas in the country), as a recovery in the number of
natural gas rigs was offset by a fall in the oil rig count.
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The Baker Hughes' data, issued since 1944, acts as an important
yardstick for drilling contractors like
Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc.
) , etc. in gauging the overall business environment of the oil
and gas industry.
Analysis of the Data
Rigs engaged in exploration and production in the U.S. totaled
1,769 for the week ended May 17, 2013, same as the previous
The current nationwide rig count is more than double the lowest
level reached in recent years (876 in the week ended Jun 12,
2009), though it is way below the prior-year level of 1,986. 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 3 to 1,693, offshore
drilling was up by 2 to 52 rigs, while inland waters activity
increased by 1 to 24 units.
Natural Gas Rig Count:
The natural gas rig count - which recently slumped to its lowest
point since Jun 1995 - increased for the first time in 4 weeks to
354 (a gain of 4 rigs from the previous week). Despite the weekly
improvement, the number of gas-directed rigs is down by 56% from
its 2012 peak of 811. In fact, the current natural gas rig count
remains 78% below its all-time high of 1,606 reached in late
summer 2008. In the year-ago period, there were 600 active
natural gas rigs.
Oil Rig Count: The oil rig count
- that rocketed to a 25-year high of 1,432 in Aug last year -
fell by 4 to 1,408. Nevertheless, the current tally is well above
the previous year's rig count of 1,382. It has recovered strongly
from a low of 179 in Jun 2009, rising 7.9 times.
Miscellaneous Rig Count:
The miscellaneous rig count (primarily drilling for geothermal
energy) at 7 remained unchanged from the previous week.
Rig Count by Type:
The number of vertical drilling rigs fell by 10 to 462, 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 up by
10 to 1,307. In particular, horizontal rig units - that reached
an all-time high of 1,193 in May 2012 - slipped by 3 from the
last week's level to 1,096.
As of now, Transocean, Diamond Offshore and Ensco are all Zacks
Rank #3 (Hold) stocks, implying that these are expected to
perform in line with the broader U.S. equity market over the next
one to three months.