By Scott DiSavino
March 31 (Reuters) - U.S. energy firms this week cut the number of oil and natural gas rigs, with the quarterly count dropping for the first time since 2020, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co BKR.O said in its closely followed report on Friday.
The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, fell by three to 755 in the week to March 31. RIG-USA-BHI, RIG-OL-USA-BHI, RIG-GS-USA-BHI
Despite this week's rig decline, Baker Hughes said the total count was still up 82 rigs, or 12%, over this time last year.
For the quarter, the total oil and gas rig count fell by 24 rigs, the first quarterly decline since the third quarter of 2020.
U.S. oil futures CLc1were down about 6% so far this year after gaining about 7% in 2022. U.S. gas futures NGc1, meanwhile, have plunged about 51% so far this year after rising about 20% last year.
The drop in gas prices has already caused some exploration and production companies, including Chesapeake Energy CorpCHK.O, Southwestern Energy Co SWN.N and Comstock Resources Inc CRK.N, to announce plans to reduce production by cutting some gas rigs.
U.S. field production of crude oil rose in January to 12.46 million barrels per day (bpd), the highest since March 2020, Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showed.
Gross natural gas production in the U.S. Lower 48 states jumped by 2.9 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) to 112.3 bcfd in January, the most since hitting a record 112.4 bcfd in November 2022, the EIA said.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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