(Aetna, Obama story updated for Democratic Party comments on health vote)WASHINGTON D.C. ( TheStreet) -- The conventional wisdom in the debate over where the greatest pain will be felt in health care reform zeroes in on the managed care sector. If Friday morning's trading in managed care stocks is any guide, health care investors are modestly positive on the year-long effort -- and the year-long stock overhang -- finally nearing the legislative finish line. The biggest managed care stocks -- Aetna ( AET), Cigna ( CI), WellPoint ( WLP), and UnitedHealth Group ( UNH) -- were all in positive territory on Friday morning. Aetna and Cigna were leading the way among managed care stocks, up in the range of 3% on Friday in the early afternoon. Aetna and Cigna were both trading at elevated levels early on Friday afternoon, with Aetna surpassing its average daily volume by 3 million shares. The Aetna-led managed care rally was not just related to health reform, though. Aetna reaffirmed its 2010 guidance on Thursday, and held a conference call with investors and analysts on Friday morning to discuss the outlook. The conference call was originally intended to be an investor day, however, Aetna cancelled the investor day given "the current political environment," the managed care company said in a statement. While Aetna raised its first quarter 2010 estimate to 66 cents, its full year outlook was unchanged. On the Aetna call, CFO Joseph Zubretsky was upbeat, saying, ""Early indications are positive.... While we are in the midst of a challenging economic and political environment, we remain committed to health-care reform that addresses access, affordability and quality." Cigna and Aetna's gains were followed by between 2% and 3% gains in share price from UnitedHealth, Health Net ( HNT), WellPoint and Coventry Health Care ( CVH), with a gain over 2%, also. Even Humana ( HUM), which is considered worst-positioned of the managed care stocks based on is exposure to Medicare, was in modestly positive territory.
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