May 1 (Reuters) - The fall in the U.S. oil rig count slowed this week, data showed on Friday, suggesting the collapse in drilling may be coming to an end as prices recover after falling 60 percent from June to March.
The oil rig count fell by 24 this week to 679 active rigs, the smallest drop since early April, after the loss of 31 and 26 rigs in the prior two weeks, oil services firm Baker Hughes Inc said in its closely-watched report.
With the oil rig decline this week, the number of active rigs has fallen for a record 21 weeks in a row to the fewest since September 2010, according to Baker Hughes data going back to 1987.
Since the number of oil rigs peaked at 1,609 in October, producers have reacted quickly to the steep drop in oil prices since the summer by cutting spending, eliminating jobs and idling more than half of the country’s rigs.
The U.S. oil rig count, however, is nearing a pivotal level that experts say is bolstering prices and trimming production, and will eventually coax oil companies back to the well pad in coming months.
U.S. crude futures this week climbed to near $60 a barrel, the highest level this year, helped by a weaker dollar and bets that a supply glut would ease as the falling rig count will start to reduce oil output.
That is a 43 percent rebound from the $42 six-year low set in March on oversupply concerns and lackluster demand.
After rising mostly steadily since 2009, U.S. oil production has stalled near 9.4 million barrels a day since early March, the highest level since the early 1970s, according to government data. (Editing by Alan Crosby)