Major benchmarks stayed pretty close to unchanged on Monday morning, hanging on to their substantial gains on Friday. Optimism about the November employment report continued to make market participants happy about the likelihood for continued gains in stocks going through the end of the year. As of 11:30 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 54 points to 27,961. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) fell 1 point to 3,145, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) fell 1 points to 8,656.
There was a lot of action on the merger and acquisition front Monday, and UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) looks like it might have picked up a sweet deal. Meanwhile, Chevron (NYSE:CVX) got some criticism about its overall corporate strategy, but shareholders didn't panic about the news.
UnitedHealth looks to buy Diplomat
Shares of UnitedHealth Group were down a fraction of a percent after the health insurance and wellness giant said that it would make an acquisition. The company's OptumRx pharmacy business has made a bid to buy Diplomat Pharmacy (NYSE:DPLO) in response to a difficult situation at Diplomat.
Under the terms of the deal, UnitedHealth will pay $300 million for Diplomat. That amounts to just $4 per share, which is well below the $5.81 per share that Diplomat stock fetched at the close last Friday.
Diplomat had told investors in November that it had lost a large customer in its pharmacy benefit management business, and that created significant risk in handling its outstanding debt. Shareholders were nervous that Diplomat might have to declare bankruptcy, hoping for a deal like this one to rescue the company.
For UnitedHealth, the move brings OptumRx additional expertise in handling specialty medications, especially for patients suffering from cancer and immune diseases. Going forward, UnitedHealth can expect to benefit from Diplomat's misfortune, and it looks like the healthcare giant got a good price in the deal.
Chevron gets downgraded
Shares of Chevron were also little changed on Monday morning after Wall Street analysts weighed in with somewhat downbeat comments about the energy stock. Citi Research downgraded Chevron from buy to neutral, cutting its price target by $15 to $120 per share.
The move comes amid concerns that Chevron has used up a margin of safety that it had built up in past years. Citi said that Chevron had previously looked more attractive than many of its oil industry peers, with efforts to use its money wisely in investing in new projects. Now, though, it's unclear whether Chevron will be able to keep up that track record, as it's facing some new challenges and hasn't achieved all of the results that many investors have wanted to see.
Moreover, the energy markets have been stubbornly weak. Even with a solid gain late last week, crude oil remains below $60 per barrel, and advances in production capacity across the industry aren't exactly bullish for the future.
Chevron remains a solid company, and its 4% dividend yield looks attractive. But until the energy market recovers, some will question whether Chevron can produce truly stellar returns for shareholders.