Stocks quoted in this article:
As the major market indexes are traveling in the red this afternoon, the number of stocks to reach new peaks is edging out those dropping to new lows. So far today, the NYSE counts 70 securities at annual peaks, and 19 fresh lows. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq tallies 20 annual highs and 20 lows. Among the stocks making notable runs today are Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ:BIIB - 152.83), Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ - 16.79), Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOR - 18.29), and VeriFone Systems Inc (NYSE:PAY - 28.25).
- Biotech company BIIB today announced that its experimental treatment for Hemophilia B met top-line results in a Phase 3 study, which could bode well for the company's U.S. regulatory application in 2013. Investors applauded this news, and boosted the shares to a new all-time best of $157.18 earlier today. On the charts, the equity has rallied 38% in 2012, guided higher by its 10- and 20-week trendlines since October 2011. Regardless of this impressive price action, option bears still maintain a hold on BIIB. The stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) checks in at 1.78, conveying that puts nearly double calls among options expiring within three months. This ratio registers in the 90th percentile of its annual range, suggesting that near-term options players have been more put-heavy toward BIIB just 10% of the time during the past year.
- Dow heavyweight HPQ has had a rough 2012, peeling back 35% since January and lagging the S&P 500 Index (SPX) by more than 21 percentage points over the past three months. In fact, the blue chip backpedaled to the $16.23 mark this morning, which marked an eight-year worst for the shares. Considering this technical backdrop, it's not surprising to find rising pessimism in the options space. The security's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.67 on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) ranks in the 63rd percentile of its annual range, signaling that traders on these exchanges have made bearish bets over bullish at a faster pace than usual during the past two weeks. To boot, the security's 50-day put/call volume ratio of 0.99 lands 12 percentage points from an annual high.
- Moving on, QCOR amplified its 53.6% year-to-date decline today, dropping to $18.13 -- its lowest point since April 2011. On a relative-strength basis, the pharmaceutical concern has underperformed the broader SPX by a whopping 64 percentage points throughout the past 60 sessions -- thanks in part to recent news that the U.S. government is investigating QCOR's promotional practices. Most analysts following the stock are already bullish, though, and further downside could be possible, should the upbeat brokerages have a change of heart. There are currently seven "strong buys," four tepid "holds," and not a single "sell" suggestion in sight.
- Finally, PAY slipped to a near two-year nadir of $27.38 today, which only weighed on its 15.5% 2012 deficit. Despite this overall weakness, the brokerage bunch seems blissfully unaware of any technical predicament. Eight of the 13 analysts covering PAY consider worthy of a "buy" or better endorsement. Furthermore, the average 12-month price target of $43.77 works out to be a 60% premium to PAY's new low.
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