UPDATE 1-U.S. weekly oil rig count decline slows - Baker Hughes
(Adds shale basin rig counts)
By Scott DiSavino
June 26 (Reuters) - Energy firms pulled three rigs from U.S. oil fields this week, the smallest drop in five weeks, data showed on Friday, a sign the collapse in drilling is coming to an end as crude prices recovered after falling 60 percent from last June to March.
It was the 29th straight weekly decline, bringing the total down to 628, the lowest since August 2010, oil services company Baker Hughes Inc said in its closely followed report.
In the latest week, drillers removed two rigs in the Permian, the biggest U.S. shale oil play in West Texas and eastern New Mexico, and three in the Bakken centered in North Dakota.
Experts expect the rig count to bottom out soon.
"We expect the rig count decline to remain lumpy in the coming weeks and expect to see a few weeks with some rig additions, offset by larger declines in subsequent weeks, before we reach an absolute bottom," analysts at Evercore ISI, a banking advisory firm, said in a report this week.
The Evercore ISI analysts said that bottom will most likely come early in the third quarter.
With U.S. crude futures averaging around $60 a barrel since the start of May - up 40 percent from a six-year low in March - several drillers, including most recently WPX Energy Inc in the Bakken, said they plan to return to the well pad due in part to lower drilling costs. Continued...