The Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) - The number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the United States grew by 5 this week to 948.

Of the rigs running nationwide, 677 were exploring for natural gas and 261 for oil, Houston-based Baker Hughes Inc. reported Friday. Ten were listed as miscellaneous.

A year ago, the rig count stood at 1,951.

Oil prices peaked at almost $150 a barrel last July before plunging. On Friday, benchmark crude for September delivery rose $1.13 to $68.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Oklahoma lost four rigs, Arkansas and North Dakota each lost one. Louisiana and Wyoming gained three rigs, California and Texas added two, and New Mexico gained one. Alaska and Colorado were unchanged.

Baker Hughes has tracked rig counts since 1944. The tally peaked at 4,530 in 1981, during the height of the oil boom. The industry posted a record low of 488 in 1999.