Oil rigs fall by lowest number since December

HOUSTON – Crude oil prices stayed in the red Friday after the closely watched Baker Hughes rig count showed producers idling fewer rigs than they have in weeks past.

The number of rigs chasing oil fell by 12 to 813 over the past week, according to the weekly report by the oil field services company. The decline marked the 16th consecutive week that producers have shed rigs, but the relatively small drop dampened the possibility that reduced drilling will shrink supplies enough to bolster prices anytime soon.

Total rigs drilling for both oil and natural gas fell by 21 to 1,048, with gas rigs down 9 to 233, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged at two.

Analysts and traders have watched the rig count for signs that oil production may begin to slow, but U.S. production continues to grow despite a drop in the rig count of about 50 % since it peaked last October.

In Friday trading, U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude fell US$2.56 to $48.87. International benchmark Brent crude fell $2.78 to $56.41.

Crude rose for a fifth day Thursday as violence in Yemen added fears of a supply disruption to an existing crude oil rally driven by a weaker dollar. – Fuel fix

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