(Corrects paragraph 3 in May 4 story to say the assets being bought are in New Mexico, not in Texas' Permian basin)
May 4 (Reuters) - U.S. shale exploration company Marathon Oil Corp reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss on Thursday, helped by higher crude prices.
In the wake of rising crude prices, oil and gas producers have increased their capital spending to acquire shale-rich properties, especially in the Permian basin, and have put more rigs back to work.
The company in March bought about 70,000 acres for $1.1 billion, and in a separate deal acquired 21,000 acres for $700 million, both in New Mexico. Permian basin, the top U.S. shale field, spreads across New Mexico and Texas.
Average realized prices for crude oil and condensate in North America was $48.46 per barrel in the quarter ended March 31, up from $28.21 a year ago, the company said.
Total production at Marathon Oil averaged 338,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) in the quarter, marginally below the 339,000 boe/d in the year-ago period.
However, the company's net loss widened to $4.96 billion, or $5.84 per share, from $407 million, or 56 cents per share, a year earlier, due to an impairment charge related to the sale of its Canadian oil sands business.
Marathon Oil sold its Canadian oil sands business to Royal Dutch Shell in March in a deal valued at $7.25 billion.
Excluding one-time items, the company lost 7 cents per share, beating analysts' average estimate of a loss of 10 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Houston-based Marathon Oil's revenue rose 88 percent to $1.07 billion. (Reporting by Ahmed Farhatha in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D'Couto)