From Staff Reports

The number of U.S. rigs drilling for oil increased by two in the past week as prices gained on investors’ hopes of more cuts in production.

In its weekly report Friday, Baker Hughes said the increase, which pushed the total of oil rigs at work to 678, was offset by single-unit declines in both gas and miscellaneous rigs to leave the combined count unchanged at 790. A year ago, it was 1,051.

Nationwide, the number of oil rigs at work was down from 857 a year ago. The 110 gas-directed rigs working was down from 194 a year ago.

Texas added three.

Oil prices continued to gain by early afternoon, with U.S. crude up 40 cents, or nearly 1 percent, to about $51.80 per barrel. It was trading at $51.72 before the rig data. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was up 60 cents, or about 1 percent, to nearly $57 per barrel.

Prices were climbing this week on investor hopes that major producers would continue to cut production, shrugging off worries over slumping demand tied to the new coronavirus.

Texas’s three-rig increase was the nation’s largest by state, making its total 397. It was down from 509 a year ago. New Mexico added one, to 113. That’s up from for 109 a year ago. Louisiana was unchanged at 52 rigs.

By major basin, the West Texas-New Mexico Permian saw the biggest increase, adding three rigs. That made its total 408, down from 473 a year ago. The Panhandle’s Granite Wash added one, to make two working there. Oklahoma’s Cana Woodford also added one, to 19. The East Texas-Louisiana Haynesville Shale was unchanged at 41.

For the week ended Feb. 7, oil production was back up to a record high of 13 million barrels per day after a slight dip the previous week, the federal Energy Information Administration said earlier in the week.

But the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries lowered its 2020 demand forecast for its crude by 200,000 barrels per day, prompting expectations the producer group and its allies, known as OPEC+, could cut output further. That lent support to prices that appeared headed for the best week since December.