May 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. and Canadian oil and natural gas rig count fell to all-time lows as North American energy firms slashed spending after global coronavirus lockdowns caused energy prices and demand to collapse.
The U.S. rig count, an early indicator of future output, fell by 21 to a record low 318 in the week to May 22, according to data from energy services firm Baker Hughes Co going back to 1940. RIG-OL-USA-BHIRIG-GS-USA-BHI That was a third consecutive week of record lows for the U.S. rig count.
In Canada, the count fell to 21 from last week’s record low of 23 rigs, according to Baker Hughes.
Year-on-year, drillers have cut rigs by 68% in the United States and 73% in Canada, Baker Hughes said.
Analysts expect energy firms to keep chopping rigs for the rest of the year and keep the count low in 2021 and 2022.
Simmons Energy, energy specialists at investment bank Piper Sandler, forecast the U.S. rig count would fall from an annual average of 943 in 2019 to 528 in 2020, 215 in 2021 and 221 in 2022. That is the same as Simmons forecast since late March.
U.S. crude futures were trading around $33 a barrel on Friday, up about 93% over the past four weeks but still down over 46% since the start of the year.
U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co said the 45 independent exploration and production companies it tracks plan to slash spending by about 48% in 2020 versus 2019. That follows a capex reduction of roughly 9% in 2019 and an increase of around 23% in 2018. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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