As of 12:15 p.m., the energy sector is performing quite well, relative to the rest of the market. The sector is currently up 1.02% compared to 0.81% for the S&P 500. Several positive news items out this morning are likely buoying GDP- and manufacturing-linked stocks.

Transocean (NYSE:RIG) has been making a nice move since the open, up 4.32%, after Brazilian courts trimmed portions the injunction that the company was served last week. Rather than being forced to exit the entire Brazilian market in 30 days, RIG must now only forgo its operations in the Campo de Frade field where last November's spill took place. This significantly reduces the initial burden by only forcing one of the 10 rigs Transocean has in operation off of Brazil's coast to be taken offline. Of the other nine, eight will remain with Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) while the remaining rig will continue operating under a private contract. Brazil accounted for 11% of the first half of Transocean's 2012 revenue, so the magnitude of this dispute cannot be brushed aside.

Alliance Pipelines, owned by Canadian firms Enbridge (TSX:ENB) and Veresen, has been granted permission to begin construction on a natural gas pipeline that will boost transportation capacity between the Bakken field and the Chicago marketplace. Expected to come online by mid-summer 2013, the increase in capacity will provide some relief for Bakken producers who have found it difficult to get their gas to market and have been forced to turn to flaring as a result. Of the 106,500 Mcf/day of predicted capacity, 61,500 Mcf/day has already been contracted by Bakken heavyweight, Hess (NYSE:HES).

Natural gas futures continue to trade higher, with Monday marking the fifth consecutive day up, dating back to last week. Up about 21% in the past week, natural gas prices have been the beneficiary of colder-than-expected-weather predictions. With around 50% of U.S. homes relying on gas for their heating source, continued expectations of cold weather could help maintain this uptick. Natural gas exploration and production companies are doing quite well today in tandem with the futures market. Gastar Exploration and Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) are each up 4.82% and 3.44%, respectively.

Taylor Muckerman does not currently own any of the above-mentioned shares.  The Motley Fool owns shares of Transocean. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Petrobras. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.