US Market Morning Update

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Crude strength lifts sentiments

Recovery in crude prices is driving gains in all major indexes this morning. The Dow Jones, NASDAQ and S&P are all up in early trading. Both the Dow and S&P 500 are both on track to register a third day of gains in the face of widespread bearish sentiment.

Warren buys oil

Amid the crude oil rout, Warren Buffett has been busy accumulating beaten-down oil stocks. Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) purchased some 2.5 million shares of Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX), taking the opportunity to own the stock at a nearly three-month low. Buffett’s firm now owns close to 64 million shares of Phillips 66, acquiring the holding at an average price of $77.22.

MetLife separating insurance arm

MetLife Inc. (NYSE: MET) is weighing options for its U.S. retail insurance operation. The insurer may separate a significant portion of its retail insurance business through a spinoff, an IPO or a sale. The company says that it has been considering separating a part of its U.S. retail insurance operations due to regulatory issues.

Aetna to stay put

While MetLife is considering spinoff options for its retail insurance business, Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) is committing to stick with Obamacare despite suffering losses in the market last year. The company’s CEO said it was too soon to give up on the process. However, UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH), Aetna’s main competitor, has hinted that it was considering ditching Obamacare program as well.

Alphabet borrows a leaf from Facebook in VR

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) is being careful not to be left behind in the potentially lucrative virtual reality industry. The company is creating a dedicated unit to pursue its interest in the VR market. Google’s VR division will have a CEO of its own. Facebook Inc’s (NASDAQ: FB) interests in VR industry are taken care of by Oculus VR.

Although Google has remained active in the VR space, Facebook and Microsoft might be outpacing it. The creation of a standalone VR branch at Google could help the company accelerate its play in the market beyond its low-tech Google Cardboard technology.

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