The US oil rig count rose for an eighth straight period this week, according to Baker Hughes.
Eight oil rigs were activated, taking the total to 617 and to the highest level since September 25, 2015. The gas rig count increased by five to 151. One miscellaneous rig was taken offline, and so the combined count increased by 12 to 768.
US drilling activity became the focus of markets again this week as oil prices plunged after data showed that inventory levels continued to rise. The Department of Energy said supplies rose last week by 8.21 million barrels to 528.4 million barrels. That’s the highest since record keeping began in 1982.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures fell below $US50 per barrel on Thursday for the first time since December. After the rig-count release, WTI was headed for a 9% weekly decline, the worst since the final week of October 2016.
Higher US production undermines the efforts by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut production and support oil prices. The count of US oil rigs rose by seven to 609 last week.
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