U.S. Rig Count Rises as Oil, Gas Drilling Improves - Analyst Blog

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In its weekly release, Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. ( BHI ) reported a rise in the U.S. rig count (number of rigs searching for oil and gas in the country). This can be attributed to an increase in the tally of both oil and gas-directed rigs.

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 1,858 for the week ended Jun 20, 2014. This was up by 4 from the previous week's rig count and indicates the first increase in 3 weeks.

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 1,759. 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 ascended by 4 to 1,784, while inland waters activity and offshore drilling remained steady at 15 and 59 units, respectively.

Natural Gas Rig Count: The natural gas rig count - which last week slumped to its lowest point since May 1993 - increased for the first time in 3 weeks to 311 (a gain of 1 rig from the previous week). Despite the weekly growth, the number of gas-directed rigs is down by 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 349 active natural gas rigs.

Oil Rig Count: The oil rig count was up by 3 to 1,545. 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 1,405. 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 remained unchanged from the previous week.

Rig Count by Type: The number of vertical drilling rigs fell by 8 to 380, 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 12 to 1,478. In particular, horizontal rig units - that reached an all-time high of 1,251 in May 2014 - increased by 2 from the last week's level to 1,250.

Gulf of Mexico (GoM): The GoM rig count was flat at 57, as both oil  and gas drilling stayed put at their week-ago levels of 45 and 12, respectively.

Conclusion

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 Schlumberger 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.


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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , Business , Stocks

Referenced Stocks: BHI , SLB , HAL , CJES

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