* Netanyahu to make announcement regarding Iran deal
* U.S. rig count rises to 825, highest since March 2015
* Marathon to buy rival Andeavor, creating biggest U.S. refining company (New throughout, updates prices, market activity and comments; new byline, changes dateline, previous LONDON)
By Ayenat Mersie
NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - Oil rose slightly on Monday, bouncing off early losses after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would make an announcement later in the day about the nuclear deal with Iran.
Brent crude futures were up 31 cents at $74.95 a barrel by 12:17 p.m. EDT (1617 GMT).
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were up 23 cents on the day at $68.33 a barrel.
Earlier in the session, both benchmarks had been down about 1 percent.
“We started off pretty deep in red, as a function of the conversations between Macron and Rouhani over the weekend... They were determined to find a middle ground,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho, of the meetings between the French and Iranian presidents.
“But if the U.S. is not part of the deal, then there really is no deal,” Yawger said.
Netanyahu will make a televized announcement at 1:00 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT) in what his office said would be a “significant development” regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran.
U.S. President Donald Trump has until May 12 to decide whether to restore sanctions on Iran that were lifted after a 2015 international agreement over its nuclear program.
Oil prices have risen this month to their highest since late 2014, driven by concern over potential disruptions to Iranian crude flows, but analysts said the market is extremely sensitive to any developments on the nuclear deal and sanctions due to the high degree of uncertainty.
“Until May 12, you’re not going to see any significant downward correction,” PVM Oil Associates strategist Tamas Varga said. “Reimposing U.S. sanctions is not a foregone conclusion just yet.”
U.S. drillers added five oil rigs in the week to April 27, bringing the total count to 825, the highest since March 2015, General Electric’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said.
Crude production in the United States has hit a record 10.59 million barrels per day. C-OUT-T-EIA
And in the latest development in the U.S. shale boom, Marathon Petroleum Corp agreed to buy rival Andeavor for more than $23 billion. The largest-ever tie-up between U.S. refiners will give the combined company a nationwide presence and increased access to growing export markets.
The deal gives Marathon more exposure to U.S. shale, thanks to Andeavor’s existing logistics and terminal operations in Texas and North Dakota shale regions. (Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper in LONDON, Koustav Samanta in SINGAPORE; Editing by Jane Merriman, Mark Potter and David Gregorio)