September 29, 2017 / 5:21 PM / a year ago

U.S. drillers add oil rigs for first week since mid-August -Baker Hughes

    Sept 29 (Reuters) - U.S. energy companies added oil rigs for
the first week in seven after a 14-month drilling recovery
stalled in August as crude prices were on track for their
strongest third quarter in 10 years.
    The U.S. oil rig count, however, is down for the second
month in a row and posted its biggest monthly and quarterly
declines since the second quarter of 2016.    
    Drillers added six oil rigs in the week to Sept. 29,
bringing the total count up to 750, General Electric Co's       
Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed
report on Friday. RIG-OL-USA-BHI
    The rig count, an early indicator of future output, is still
higher than the 425 active oil rigs a year ago as energy
companies pursued ambitious spending programs for 2017.
    For the month of September, the rig count fell by nine,
after dropping by seven in August. 
    This is the first consecutive monthly reduction since May
2016, after which the drilling recovery took off because of
higher oil prices.
    The rig count also dropped by six in the third quarter, the
first decline over a three-month period since the second quarter
of 2016.
     U.S. crude futures        have risen to around $52 per
barrel this week due to supply concerns, including a global
producer's deal to curb output.      
     Crude prices were up over 9 percent so far this month, the
biggest monthly increase since April 2016, after declining in
five of the past six months, including a near 6 percent drop in
August as rising U.S. output helped to add to a global glut.
    In spite of higher oil prices, Total SA           this week
adjusted its capital expenditure plans for 2017 to $14 billion,
the low end of its previous $14-$15 billion range.             
    Although several exploration and production (E&P) companies
have trimmed their investments for this year due to the drop in
crude prices, they still planned to spend much more this year
than last year.
    Analysts at Simmons & Co, energy specialists at U.S.
investment bank Piper Jaffray, this week revised higher its
forecast for the total oil and gas rig count, now expecting it
to rise to an average of 973 in 2017, 1,004 in 2018 and 1,084 in
2019. Last week, it forecast 881 in 2017, 959 in 2018 and 1,114
in 2019. 
    That compares with 861 oil and gas rigs so far in 2017, 509
in 2016 and 978 in 2015.

 (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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