Just when you think the outlook can't get any brighter for National Oilwell Varco (NYSE: NOV), these rig renaissance men offer up another reason to rejoice.

By now, we should be up to speed on the deepwater story. Oil producers such as Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) keep ordering more drilling muscle to exploit underwater prizes. This is a major boon for contract drillers such as Transocean (NYSE: RIG) and, in turn, for National Oilwell and the world's heavy-duty shipyards. Stena Drilling just ordered up a billion-dollar Arctic-class drillship, and it's worth betting that a fair amount of National Oilwell is going to wind up on that rig. This massive buildout of top-dollar drilling rigs has taken National Oilwell's backlog to the doorstep of $10 billion.

We knew all of this already, so National Oilwell's tremendous quarterly financial results didn't surprise anyone. Operating profit rose 33%, and the operating margin held firm, despite the quarter's sponge-up of Grant Prideco. Per-share earnings erupted 42% higher. Same old, same old.

What is new is the company's renewed enthusiasm for the land-drilling market in the lower 48. If you've been watching the perky share prices of Nabors Industries (NYSE: NBR), Patterson-UTI (Nasdaq: PTEN), and the rest of the land-drilling clan, you know something's up.

There are two things going on, really. One, natural gas prices have followed oil up to princely levels. Second, producers such as XTO Energy (NYSE: XTO) are extending into the Marcellus shale, the Haynesville shale, and other "unconventional" resource plays. Rig demand is thus being driven in a way unforeseen as recently as October. National Oilwell is building special-purpose rigs for Appalachia, where operators such as Southwestern Energy (NYSE: SWN) require smaller, more nimble units. This means that idled rigs sitting in various contractors' inventories just aren't enough to get the job done.

So it looks as though we're on the brink of a fresh building binge, and that keeps me bullish on this beast.

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