U.S. rig count climbs for 17th week

Even as oil prices tumbled further below $50 a barrel, U.S. companies sent nine more oil-drilling rigs to fields in Texas and other states over the past week, Baker Hughes said Friday.

That brought the nation’s fleet of oil rigs up to 712, up from an all-time low of 316 nearly a year ago. The total U.S. rig count — including natural gas rigs — has increased for 17 consecutive weeks amid higher energy prices. Drillers have 885 rigs hunting for oil and gas, more than double the low of 404 in May.

Most of the gains this past week were in the prolific Permian Basin in West Texas, where the rig count went up by six to 357. One was added in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.