Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Natural gas companies' shares rose today, after Chevron announced it would buy Atlas Energy (Nasdaq: ATLS) for $3.2 billion cash and a stock component related to Atlas Pipeline Partners (NYSE: APL).

So what: The news drove natural gas plays Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE: COG) and EQT (NYSE: EQT) higher, though they fell back later in the day. The acquisition, along with strong earnings from Carrizo Oil & Gas (Nasdaq: CRZO) and McDermott International (NYSE: MDR), helped keep the sector higher throughout the day, and demonstrates healthy fundamentals.

Now what: The day's only bad news for natural gas was a weak earnings report from Clean Energy Fuels (Nasdaq: CLNE), which sells compressed and liquefied natural gas for use in transportation. As Big Oil continues to move into natural gas, it may just be a matter of time before we see another large purchase; speculators aren't waiting to make their picks. Robust earnings and acquisitions are a promising indication for the sector, and they should drive stocks higher going forward.

Interested in more info on oil & gas stocks like McDermott International? Add it to your watchlist.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

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