March 7 (UPI) -- The number of rigs deployed in the United States on average last month was up more than 200 from last year, oilfield services company Baker Hughes reported.
Rig counts serve as a loose metric to gauge the industry's confidence in spending on exploration and production. A gain would indicate growing confidence in a particular region, while a decline suggests market conditions are cost-prohibitive.
Total international rig counts for February were up from January, but down both for offshore and inland basins year-over-year, according to Baker Hughes. In the United States, the company recorded 744 rigs on average for February, up about 9 percent from January and 40 percent higher than the same month in 2016.
The increase in U.S. rig counts may be indicative of the recovery in crude oil prices since last year. The price for Brent crude oil early Tuesday was around $56 per barrel, compared with a closing price of $39.02 on this date in 2016.
Baker Hughes is one of the largest companies providing services to the exploration and production side of the energy sector. Energy companies during the market downturn that began in 2014 turned to joint-venture efforts in order to streamline capital and GE Oil & Gas took a 62.5 percent stake in a company with combined revenue of $32 billion last year.
Revenue for Baker Hughes for the fourth quarter was $2.4 billion, up 2 percent from the previous term, but still off 29 percent year-over-year.
For the broader market, rig count gains in the United States could show up later in the year in real production figures. Federal estimates for the week ending Feb. 24 show total U.S. crude oil production at 9.03 million barrels per day, up slightly from the previous week, but marginally lower than the same time last year.