U.S. energy firms this week cut the number of oil and natural gas rigs operating for a sixth week in a row, energy services firm Baker Hughes  said in its closely followed report on Aug. 18.

The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, fell by 12 to 642 in the week to Aug. 18, the lowest since February 2022. 

Baker Hughes said that puts the total rig count down 120 rigs, or 15.7%, below this time last year.

U.S. oil rigs fell by five to 520 this week, their lowest since March 2022, while gas rigs dropped by six to 117, their lowest since February 2022.

U.S. oil futures were up nearly 1% so far this year after gaining about 7% in 2022. U.S. gas futures, meanwhile, have plunged more than 40% so far this year after rising nearly 20% last year.

Oil and natural gas output from top U.S. shale-producing regions is set to fall in September for the second straight month to the lowest levels since May, Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showed on Monday.

Meanwhile, crude production reached its highest since the coronavirus pandemic decimated fuel consumption, EIA data showed on Aug. 16.

Independent exploration and production companies tracked by financial services firm TD Cowen were on track to boost spending by about 19% in 2023 versus 2022.