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US Oil Production Growth Might Be Slower in 2019

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Jan. 9 2019, Updated 8:02 a.m. ET

Oil rig count

Last week, the oil rig count fell by eight to 877. The rig count tends to follow US crude oil prices with a three to six-month lag.

In February 2016, US crude oil prices fell to the lowest closing level in 12 years. Between February 11, 2016, and January 7, 2019, US crude oil active futures rose 85.1%. The oil rig count reached a 6.5-year low of 316 in May 2016. Between May 27, 2016, and January 4, 2019, the oil rig count rose ~177.5%. Between May 27, 2016, and December 28, 2018, US crude oil production rose ~33.9%.

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The oil rig count topped?

On October 3, US crude oil active futures settled at $76.41 per barrel—the highest closing level since November 21, 2014. Based on the pattern we saw above, the oil rig count could keep rising until at least March 2019. By the second quarter of 2019, US crude oil production growth might slow down. In the week ending November 16, the oil rig count was at 888—the highest level since March 2015.

US crude oil output

In the week ending on December 28, US crude oil production was 11.7 MMbpd (million barrels per day)—record levels. On June 1–October 26, US crude oil production was between 10.8 MMbpd and 11.2 MMbpd. Production broke that range with a rise in the oil rig count in the past few months. With a retreat in the oil rig count, the growth in US oil production might slow down.

Oilfield services stocks

Since US crude oil’s 12-year low on February 11, 2016, the VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (OIH) has fallen 28%. Schlumberger (SLB), Halliburton (HAL), Transocean (RIG), and Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), have returned 41.6%, 0.1%, -3.8%, and -18.6%, respectively. Together, they account for ~44% of OIH’s holdings. Any slowdown in US oil drilling activities could drag these stocks.

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