UPDATE 1-U.S. oil drillers add the most rigs in a month in over 2 years -Baker Hughes

Fri Jul 29, 2016 2:07pm EDT
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(Recasts to add monthly data to headline, paragraphs 1, 4)

July 29 (Reuters) - U.S. drillers this week added oil rigs for a fifth consecutive week as part of the biggest monthly rig count increase in over two years, Baker Hughes Inc said on Friday.

The oilfield services provider and some analysts, however, have cast doubts on a substantial recovery in drilling this year with U.S. crude prices heading for their biggest monthly loss in a year.

Drillers added three oil rigs in the week to July 29, bringing the total rig count up to 374, compared with 664 a year ago, according to the closely followed Baker Hughes weekly report. RIG-OL-USA-BHI

The rig count rose by 44 during July, the most in a month since April 2014, signaling a recovery in U.S. drilling after the biggest price rout in a generation prompted a slump in rigs from a peak of 1,609 in October 2014.

Drillers have returned to the well pad since U.S. crude prices tipped above $50 in early June. That is the key level that analysts and producers said would prompt their return.

U.S. crude futures, however, earlier Friday slipped below $41 a barrel for the first time since April and were on track for a monthly loss of about 15 percent, pressured by persistently high inventories.

"I believe oil prices in the upper $50s at a minimum are required for a sustainable recovery in North America," Baker Hughes Chief Executive Martin Craighead said on Thursday.

Bigger rivals Schlumberger Ltd and Halliburton Co last week both said they expected a modest recovery in North American activity.   Continued...