November 22, 2017 / 6:15 PM / a year ago

U.S. oil rig count up in Nov, first monthly build since July -Baker Hughes

    By Scott DiSavino
    Nov 22 (Reuters) - U.S. energy companies this week added oil
rigs, with the monthly rig count rising for the first time since
July as crude prices traded near their highest levels since the
summer of 2015.
    Drillers added nine oil rigs in the week to Nov. 22,
bringing the total count up to 747, General Electric Co's       
Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed
report on Wednesday. RIG-OL-USA-BHI
    Baker Hughes released the rig count early this week due to
the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday on Thursday. The report is
also the last set of data released in November.
    For the month, the number of active rigs increased by 10,
after three months of declines.
    The rig count, an early indicator of future output, is still
much higher than a year ago when only 474 rigs were active after
energy companies boosted spending plans for 2017 as crude
started recovering from a two-year price crash.
    The increase in drilling lasted 14 months before stalling in
August, September and October after some producers started
trimming their 2017 spending plans when prices turned softer
over the summer.
   So far in 2017, U.S. crude futures        have averaged about
$50 a barrel, easily topping last year's $43.47 average. This
week, futures        were trading around $58 a barrel, their
highest since July 2015.
    Looking ahead, futures were trading near $57 for calendar
2018           and $53 for calendar 2019          .
    Energy consultancy Westwood Global Energy Group this week
forecast an 18 percent increase in active rigs in 2018, but said
U.S. output would climb even faster than implied by the rising
oil rig count as producers become more productive per well.
    Analysts at Simmons & Co, energy specialists at U.S.
investment bank Piper Jaffray, this week revised higher their
forecast for the total oil and natural gas rig count to an
average of 874 in 2017, 927 in 2018 and 1,074 in 2019. Two weeks
ago, it forecast 872 in 2017, 910 in 2018 and 1,059 in 2019.
    There were 923 oil and natural gas rigs active on Nov. 22.
The average number of rigs in service so far in 2017 was 871.
That compares with 509 in 2016 and 978 in 2015. Most rigs
produce both oil and gas.

 (Reporting by Scott DiSavino
Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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