U.S. markets were down slightly in midday trading Friday, with the S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrials down 0.1% and 0.2%, respectively, despite a climb in crude oil prices by 2%, to $44.42 a barrel, based on U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate.
Shares of Cigna (CI) and fellow health insurer Anthem (ANTM) were each up in afternoon trading after the Justice Department appeared to be willing to listen to settlement offers surrounding Cigna's $48 billion bid to acquire Anthem, which the Justice Department sued to block in July.
Justice Department lawyer Jon Jacobs said at a Friday hearing in Washington that the regulatory agency is "willing to hear any proposals that the defendants have," sending shares of Cigna and Anthem up 4% and 1%, respectively.
Meanwhile, shares of Oasis Petroleum (OAS) were up about 3% in afternoon trading after the Houston-based oil-and-gas exploration company benefited from rising crude prices, which were buoyed by reports that Saudi Arabia's energy minister, Kahlid al-Falih, had said Thursday that the country is considering cooperating with both OPEC members and non-members in further production negotiations.
Stocks across the industry were also buoyed by a 1.6% rise in natural gas prices, to $2.59 per million British Thermal Units, based on New York Mercantile Exchange prices. The rise in oil and gas prices also helped buoy shares of Kinder Morgan (KMI) and Southwestern Energy (SWN) -- both member of Real Money's Stressed Out watch list -- which were each up about 2% in afternoon trading.
Crude oil and natural gas prices are up about 20% and 11%, respectively, so far on the year.