Oil producers focused on the most-prolific U.S. oil field are outperforming more wide-ranging peers this year as the Permian -- a multi-layered stack of crude-soaked rocks beneath West Texas and New Mexico -- still turns a profit amid depressed oil markets. A bidding war has broken out among Permian explorers, driving up prices for drilling rights. In the latest deal, SM Energy Co. spent $980 million on Monday to buy access to almost 25,000 acres in the region, joining Diamondback Energy Inc., Callon Petroleum Co. and QEP Resources Inc. in expanding Permian portfolios.

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