Pharmaceutical stocks are traditionally viewed as defensive -- and with baby boomers marching steadily toward senior-citizenship, that "safe haven" reputation seems unlikely to dim anytime soon. So, in light of the recent bout of market volatility, which drugmakers look like solid bets? Let's check out the contrarian prospects for pill pushers Allergan, Inc. (AGN - 91.10), Pfizer Inc. (PFE - 22.06), and Perrigo Company (PRGO - 105.20).
Botox maker AGN boasts an impressive-looking chart. The stock has gained 14.1% over the past 52 weeks, and the shares have been chugging steadily higher since November 2008. For more than three years, AGN has enjoyed the support of its ascending 40-week moving average, which successfully contained the security's most recent dip.
However, bearish bets are still the options of choice on AGN. The security has racked up a 50-day put/call volume ratio of 1.87 on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). This ratio ranks higher than 99% of comparable readings taken over the previous year, indicating that speculators have rarely shown a greater appetite for puts over calls.
Elsewhere, short interest surged by 32.7% over the past two reporting periods, as a fresh crop of skeptics placed their bets against the equity's long-term uptrend. In light of AGN's bounce from support, a rush to cover by some of the weaker bearish hands could contribute to additional upside.
There's also room for upgrades, as nine analysts have doled out a "hold" or "sell" rating on the outperforming drug stock. Going forward, a round of bullish notes from this group could draw another wave of buyers to the table.
Traders expecting a continued climb from AGN may want to consider the stock's October 80 call.
Dow component PFE is no technical slouch, either. The stock recently turned higher after meeting up with support in the $21.50 area -- which roughly coincides with PFE's year-to-date breakeven, as well as its 150-day moving average. From a longer-term perspective, the shares have been stair-stepping higher since the March 2009 broad-market bottom.
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