U.S. drillers add oil rigs for second week in a row

U.S. energy firms added oil rigs for a second week in a row even as oil prices fell to 1-1/2-year lows and headed for losses of more than 20 percent this year.

Drillers added 2 oil rigs in the week to Dec. 28, bringing the total count to 885, General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed report on Friday. .

For the month the rig count fell by 2, its first decline in six months. But for the quarter, the count was up 26, the fourth increase in a row.

For the year the count was up 138. That compares with an increase of 222 rigs in 2017 and a decline of 11 rigs in 2016.

The U.S. rig count, an early indicator of future output, is higher than a year ago when 747 rigs were active after energy companies spent more to capture higher prices.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were last up 15 cents to $44.76 a barrel, after reaching $46.22 a barrel earlier, though the U.S. benchmark was headed for a third straight week of losses.

Crude futures were trading around $46.74 a barrel for the balance of 2019 and $48.43 for calendar 2020 .

Year-to-date, the total number of oil and gas rigs active in the United States has averaged 1,031. That keeps the total count for 2018 on track for the highest since 2014, which averaged 1,862 rigs. Most rigs produce both oil and gas.

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