April 8, 2016 / 5:11 PM / 2 years ago

US oil drillers cut rigs for 3rd week to Nov 2009 lows -Baker Hughes

April 8 (Reuters) - U.S. energy firms cut oil rigs for a
third week in a row to the lowest level since November 2009, oil
services company Baker Hughes Inc said Friday, as energy
firms keep slashing spending despite a roughly 50 percent jump
in crude futures since hitting a near 13-year low in February.
    Drillers cut 8 oil rigs in the week to April 8, bringing the
total rig count down to 354, Baker Hughes said in its closely
followed report. RIG-OL-USA-BHI
    The number of U.S. oil rigs currently operating compares
with the 760 rigs operating in the same week a year ago. In
2015, drillers cut on average 18 oil rigs per week for a total
of 963 for the year, the biggest annual decline since at least
1988 amid the biggest rout in crude prices in a generation.
    Before this week, drillers cut on average 13 oil rigs per
week for a total of 174 so far this year. 
    Energy firms have sharply reduced oil and natural gas
drilling since the selloff in crude markets began in mid-2014.
U.S. crude futures collapsed from over $107 a barrel in
June 2014 to a near 13-year low around $26 in February.
    U.S. drilling services company Patterson-UTI Energy Inc
 said it had 64 drilling rigs in operation in March,
compared with 142 during the same month in 2015. 
    Despite the challenges energy firms are facing, the U.S.
Justice Department this week filed a lawsuit to stop Halliburton
Co from buying Baker Hughes, arguing the combination of
the No. 2 and No. 3 oil services companies would hurt
competition in the sector. 
    But with U.S. crude futures trading around $40 a barrel, up
about 50 percent since hitting the February low, some analysts
think the rig count will rise later this year and next year as
prices increase.
    Looking forward, U.S. crude futures were fetching around $42
a barrel for the balance of 2016 and about $44 for
calendar 2017.

 (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
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