Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Baker Hughes, Transocean, Diamond Offshore, Pride International and Patterson-UTI Energy

Mar 15, 2011, 09:30 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Analyst Blog features: Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI), Transocean Inc. (NYSE: RIG), Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO), Pride International (NYSE: PDE) and Patterson-UTI Energy (Nasdaq: PTEN).


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Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

U.S. Rig Count Up by 8

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), Pride International (NYSE: PDE) and Patterson-UTI Energy (Nasdaq: PTEN) 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 1,715 for the week ended March 11, 2011. This is up by 8 from the previous week's rig count and represents the second increase in as many weeks.

The current nationwide rig count is 96% higher than the 2009 low of 876 (set in the week ended June 12, 2009) and significantly exceeds the prior-year level of 1,407. 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 8 to 1,673, while inland waters activity and offshore drilling remained steady at 17 and 25, respectively.

Natural Gas Rig Count

The natural gas rig count decreased by 17 from the previous week to 882, the lowest level in more than a year. As a result of the decline, the number of gas-directed rigs are down approximately 11% 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 45% 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 927 active natural gas rigs.

Oil Rig Count

The oil rig count was up by 26 – the highest in 2011 – to 827. The current tally is considerably more than the previous year's rig count of 466. It has recovered strongly from a low of 179 in June 2009, rising more than 4.5 times.

Miscellaneous Rig Count

The miscellaneous rig count (primarily drilling for geothermal energy), at 6, was down by 1 from the previous week.

Rig Count by Type

The number of vertical drilling rigs rose by 6 to 509, 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 2 to 1,206.

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