Shares of Humana rally on silence and a withdrawal

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Humana is pulling out of a major health care conference and says it will not comment on rumors of a merger, actions that will likely fuel Wall Street speculation that the insurer is part of a developing deal.

Shares of the Medicare Advantage coverage provider, which hit an all-time high late last month, climbed another 2 percent Monday while broader indexes slipped.

Humana said that it has received analyst and investor questions about its outlook and the possibility that it will "participate in industry consolidation." The insurer said that as part of a long-standing policy it won’t comment on speculation and that it will observe a quiet period that lasts until it announces second-quarter results July 29.

Humana Chief Financial Officer Brian Kane was scheduled to speak Wednesday at a Goldman Sachs global HealthCare conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Kane is a former Goldman, Sachs executive who joined Humana last year.

Several other major figures in the industry, including the CEOs of Humana rivals Aetna Inc. and Anthem Inc., are listed as conference speakers.

Humana Inc. is the nation’s second-largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans, which are privately run, federally funded versions of the Medicare program for people over age 65 and the disabled. The plans are expected to be a key source of growth for health insurers as the nation ages.

Humana shares soared to an all-time high of $219.79 on May 29 after The Wall Street Journal reported that the insurer was a takeover target.

Shares of the Louisville, Kentucky, company rose $4.61 to $218.99 in heavy trading Monday.

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