Oct 30 (Reuters) - U.S. energy firms this week added oil and natural gas rigs for a seventh week in a row for the first time since June 2018, and for a third consecutive month, even as oil majors cut spending due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on energy demand and prices.
The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose nine to 296 in the week to Oct. 30, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said in its closely followed report on Friday. RIG-USA-BHIRIG-OL-USA-BHIRIG-GS-USA-BHI
That was 526 rigs, or 64%, below this time last year.
During October, the total rig count rose by 35, the biggest monthly increase since May 2018.
The total rig count fell to a record low of 244 during the week ended Aug. 14, while oil rigs alone fell to a 15-year low of 172 in the same week, according to Baker Hughes data going back to 1940.
U.S. oil rigs rose 10 to 221 this week, their highest since May, while gas rigs fell one to 72, according to Baker Hughes data.
Top U.S. oil producers Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp cut spending aggressively in the third quarter in a race to beat weak trends in fuel demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Exxon, the largest U.S. producer by volume, also said it will slash its capital spending for 2021 to between $16 billion and $19 billion, a cut of as much as 30% from this year’s plan.
U.S. crude prices fell below $35 a barrel this week, their lowest since June, after previously holding around $40 since mid June.
Even though the oil contract was down about 42% since the start of the year, it was still up about 88% over the past six months mostly on hopes global economies and energy demand will return when governments lift coronavirus lockdowns. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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