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Rise in Oil Rigs Might Not Impact Oil Prices

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Apr. 9 2019, Updated 8:49 a.m. ET

Oil rig count

Last week, the oil rig count rose by 15 to 831 from the lowest level since April 13, 2018. The rig count tends to follow US crude oil prices with a three to six-month lag.

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In February 2016, US crude oil prices fell to the lowest closing level in 12 years. Between February 11, 2016, and April 8, 2019, US crude oil active futures rose 145.7%. The oil rig count reached a 6.5-year low of 316 in May 2016. Between May 27, 2016, and April 5, 2019, the oil rig count rose ~163%. Between May 27, 2016, and March 29, 2018, US crude oil production rose ~39.7%.

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US crude oil production

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. By the second quarter, the US crude oil production growth rate might reverse. In fact, US crude oil production fell by 90 thousand barrels per day in January on a month-over-month basis based on the EIA’s Monthly Oil Production report released on March 29.

In the week ending November 16, the oil rig count was at 888—the highest level since March 2015. In the week ending on March 29, the US crude oil production was 12.2 MMbpd (million barrels per day)—its record level. With the lower oil rig count, US crude oil production might fall going forward.

US crude oil output and oilfield services stocks

Since the US oil rig count hit a multiyear high on November 16, the VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (OIH) has fallen 6%. Schlumberger (SLB), Halliburton (HAL), Transocean (RIG), and Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), have returned 14.8%, -3.6%, -6.7%, and 14.8%, respectively. OIH has 44% exposure to these stocks. Any slowdown in US oil drilling activities could be a concern for these stocks.

Any slowdown in US oil production might also impact broader market indexes like the S&P 500 Index (SPY) and the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index (DIA).

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