uploads///Total Rigs

US Rig Count Continues Slide to Lowest Level since November 2009

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Mar. 17 2015, Updated 11:22 a.m. ET

US total rig count

According to oilfield service company Baker Hughes (BHI), there were 1,125 active oil and gas rigs in the US during the week ending March 13, 2015. That count represents 67 fewer rigs than in the week ending March 6, eight lower than the previous week’s decline.

The US rig count generally experienced an uptrend in 2014, but that trend has reversed in the past three months. 13 consecutive weeks of falling rig counts show that US drilling activity is on a downturn. Last week also saw the 17th rig count decrease in the past five months.

After last week’s drop, the US rig count dropped to its lowest level since November 27, 2009. The week’s figures were led by a steep fall in the onshore rig count. Please read part six of this series to learn more about the onshore rig count.

According to Baker Hughes, February’s average rig count of 1,348 declined by 335 from January’s average of 1,683. September’s average rig count of 1,931 was the highest since July 2012.

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Why were rig counts lower last week?

Last week’s lower rig count was mainly due to the crude oil rig count decreasing by 56. Natural gas rigs also decreased by 11. Read the next part of this series to see how a fall in oil prices triggered the decline in the oil rig count.

In the last year, the total US rig count has dropped by 684, or 38%. The number of oil rigs decreased by 595, or 41%. The number of natural gas rigs fell by 87, or ~25%. Total rig count increased by 33 for the corresponding period ending March 14, 2014.

Rig count trends show inclination to spend on drilling

Rig counts tell us how many rigs are actively drilling for oil and gas. Continuing drops in rig counts can be a good sign that demand and supply are nearing a balance. Rig counts also signal how confident producers are about the market for these products. Companies in the drilling environment include Chesapeake Energy (CHK) and ExxonMobil (XOM). These companies are part of the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE). Together, they account for 16.2% of XLE’s total market capitalization.

Rig counts also indicate how busy oilfield service companies such as Schlumberger (SLB) and Halliburton (HAL) are at any given time. For more information on Halliburton, please read Wall Street has decent expectations for Halliburton after 4Q14 earnings.

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