Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Baker Hughes, Transocean, Diamond Offshore, Noble and Pride International

Mar 09, 2011, 09:30 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, March 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com Analyst Blog features: Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI), Transocean Inc. (NYSE: RIG), Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO), Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE) and Pride International (NYSE: PDE).

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Here are highlights from Tuesday's Analyst Blog:

U.S. Rig Count Snaps Losing Streak

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), primarily reflecting an increase in the number of land rigs.

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) and Pride International (NYSE: PDE) in gauging the overall business environment of the oil and gas industry.

Weekly Summary

Rigs engaged in exploration and production in the U.S. totaled 1,707 for the week ended March 4, 2011. This is up by 8 from the previous week's rig count and represents the first increase in 4 weeks.

The current nationwide rig count is 95% higher than the 2009 low of 876 (set in the week ended June 12, 2009) and significantly exceeds the prior-year level of 1,396. It rose to a 22-year high in 2008, peaking to 2,031 in the weeks ending August 29 and September 12.

Rigs engaged in land operations climbed by 7 to 1,665, inland waters activity increased by 1 to 17, while offshore drilling remained steady at 25 rigs.

Natural Gas Rig Count

The natural gas rig count decreased by 7 from the previous week to 899, the lowest level in more than a year. As a result of the decline, the number of gas-directed rigs are down approximately 9% from the 18-month high reached during mid-August, 2010, when it hit 992, the highest since February 2009.

The current natural gas rig count remains 44% below its peak of 1,606 in late summer 2008 but has rebounded strongly after bottoming out to a 7-year low of 665 on July 17, 2009. In the year-ago period, there were 926 active natural gas rigs.

Oil Rig Count

The oil rig count was up by 18 – the most in 2011 – to 801. The current tally is considerably more than the previous year's rig count of 456. It has recovered strongly from a low of 179 in June 2009, rising almost 4.5 times.

Miscellaneous Rig Count

The miscellaneous rig count (primarily drilling for geothermal energy), at 7, was down by 3 from the previous week.

Rig Count by Type

The number of vertical drilling rigs rose by 5 to 503, 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 3 to 1,204.

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