CHICAGO, April 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI), Transocean Inc. (NYSE: RIG), Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO), Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE) and Helmerich & Payne (NYSE: HP).
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Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:
Oil Drilling Rigs Scale New Peak
In its weekly release, Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI) reported a rise in the U.S. rig count (number of rigs searching for oil and gas in the country). This can be attributed to an increase in the tally of both oil and natural gas-directed rigs. In particular, the natural gas rig count climbed for only the third time in 2012, while the oil rig count scaled another record high.
The Baker Hughes rig count, issued since 1944, acts as an important yardstick for drilling contractors such as Transocean Inc. (NYSE: RIG), Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO), Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE), Helmerich & Payne (NYSE: HP), etc. in gauging the overall business environment of the oil and gas industry.
Analysis of the Data
Weekly Summary: Rigs engaged in exploration and production in the U.S. totaled 1,972 for the week ended April 20, 2012. This was up by 22 from the previous week's count and represents the fifth increase in the last 10 weeks.
The current nationwide rig count is more than double that of the 6-year low of 876 (in the week ended June 12, 2009) and significantly exceeds the prior-year level of 1,800. It rose to a 22-year high in 2008, peaking at 2,031 in the weeks ending August 29 and September 12.
Rigs engaged in land operations climbed by 19 to 1,904, inland waters activity increased by 1 to 23, while offshore drilling was up by 2 to 45 rigs.
Natural Gas Rig Count: The natural gas rig count – which recently slumped to a 10-year low – increased for just the second time in 15 weeks to 631 (a gain of 7 rigs from the previous week). Despite the weekly improvement, the number of gas-directed rigs is down approximately 33% from its 2011 peak of 936, reached during mid-October.
In fact, the current natural gas rig count remains 61% below its all-time high of 1,606 reached in late summer 2008. In the year-ago period, there were 878 active natural gas rigs.
Oil Rig Count: The oil rig count was up by 15 to 1,337. The current tally – the highest since Baker Hughes started breaking up oil and natural gas rig counts in 1987 – is way above the previous year's rig count of 913. It has recovered strongly from a low of 179 in June 2009, rising almost 7.5 times.
Miscellaneous Rig Count: The miscellaneous rig count (primarily drilling for geothermal energy) at 4 remained unchanged from the previous week.
Rig Count by Type: The number of vertical drilling rigs rose by 3 to 571, while the horizontal/directional rig count (encompassing new drilling technology that has the ability to drill and extract gas from dense rock formations, also known as shale formations) was up by 19 at 1,401. In particular, horizontal rig units – that reached an all-time high of 1,185 in January this year – increased by 10 from last week's level to 1,155.
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