Drilling Slowdown on Sub-$80 Oil Creeps Into Biggest U.S. Fields

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The slowdown in the U.S. oil-drilling boom spread to two of the nation’s largest fields this week.

The Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, the country’s biggest oil play, lost four rigs targeting crude, dropping to 558, Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI.N 2.2%) said on its website Friday. Those in North Dakota’s Williston Basin, the third-largest and home to the Bakken shale formation, slid to the lowest level since August, according to the Houston-based field services company’s website. It was the first time in four weeks that oil rigs dropped in the Williston.

Oil prices have tumbled 29 percent from this year’s peak, pausing a surge in drilling in U.S. shale plays that has propelled domestic crude production to the most in three decades and brought retail gasoline prices below $3 a gallon for the first time since 2010. Drillers from Apache Corp. to Hess Corp. have announced plans to cut their rig counts in some North American oil fields as crude futures trade under $80 a barrel.

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