Crude ended little-changed on Thursday after U.S. oil drilling this week increased for the first time after 29 weeks of declines, data showed on Thursday, the strongest sign yet that higher crude prices are coaxing producers back to the well pad.
The number of rigs drilling for oil in U.S. fields rose by 12, bringing the total to 640, oilfield services firm Baker Hughes reported. At this time last year, 1,562 oil rigs were online.
Experts had expected the rig count to bottom out soon and then rise later in the year.
"We believe about 100 rigs could be added to the U.S. rig count between now and year-end," analysts at Evercore ISI, a banking advisory firm, said in a report this week, noting "The bottom is passing and the upturn is arriving."
Front-month U.S. crude, also known as WTI, closed down 3 cents, at $56.93 a barrel. It tumbled 4 percent in the previous session, the most since early April, after a surprise inventory build last week.
Brent crude futures were flat at $62 per barrel.