Beware These 3 Biotechs in October

Endo International plc - Ordinary Shares (NASDAQ:ENDP), Eli Lilly and Co (NYSE:LLY), and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ:VRTX) have historically struggled during the month of October

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Sep 29, 2016 at 11:25 AM

Earlier this month, we looked at two oil stocks that were staring at potentially rough Septembers. As we turn our attention toward October, history suggests that a different sector -- specifically, biotech -- has actually struggled during the month. Three drug stocks that may be in trouble are Endo International plc - Ordinary Shares (NASDAQ:ENDP), Eli Lilly and Co (NYSE:LLY), and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ:VRTX).

Courtesy of Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White, below is a list of the 25 S&P 500 Index (SPX) stocks that have performed the worst over the last decade, specifically during the month of October. To qualify, each stock must have at least eight returns in the previous 10 years. As you can see, roughly one-third fall under the "drugs," "healthcare," or "biomedics/genetics" umbrella.

worst october stocks october 29

Endo International plc - Ordinary Shares (NASDAQ:ENDP)

Among SPX components, ENDP has been the worst October stock over the past decade. During that time frame, the shares have posted a positive monthly performance just twice, with an average loss of 2.9%. Last year, things were especially rough, as ENDP tanked 13.4% in October.

endp october returns september 29

Big losses are nothing new for the biotech stock, though. Year-to-date, ENDP has dropped more than 64% at $21.78 -- including a 2.5% slip today, as a $2 price-target cut to $38 at J.P. Morgan Securities overshadows an upgrade to "outperform" from "market perform" at Northland Capital.

As the shares trek lower, short sellers have been piling on. Specifically, short interest on ENDP swelled nearly 34% during the last two reporting periods, and now accounts for a considerable 8% of the stock's float. Additional short selling on the long-term undperformer could intensify the shares' technical struggles.

Eli Lilly and Co (NYSE:LLY)

Large-cap drugmaker LLY hasn't been quite as bad in October, but its track record is still far from good. The stock has been positive just four times in the last 10 years, and its average monthly loss is 2.9%. A repeat performance would burn shareholders, who have already watched LLY surrender about 5% in 2016, last seen at $79.94.

lly october returns september 29

Shareholders aren't the only ones who could pay the price next month. In fact, there are plenty of option bulls counting on October gains for LLY. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock has racked up a 10-day call/put volume ratio of 5.16 -- just 8 percentage points from an annual high.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ:VRTX)

VRTX has also been an October underperformer. Going back 10 years, the stock has advanced just four times during the month, and on average, has lost 2.7%. One notable exception: 2015, when the shares rocketed 19.8% in October.

vrtx october returns september 29

Option bulls have to be hoping VRTX can reproduce its returns from last year. During the previous 10 sessions, traders have bought to open 6.26 calls for every put at the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX. Plus, the corresponding call/put volume ratio rests just 3 percentage points from an annual peak.

Today, though, VRTX is down 0.9% at $88.03, despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday giving a thumbs up to the expanded use of the company's cystic fibrosis drug, Orkambi. Weighing on the shares is the firm's surprising decision to lower its 2016 sales guidance on Orkambi, which triggered price-target cuts at a trio of brokerage firms. Year-to-date, the shares have now surrendered 30%.

On the flip side, there are plenty of stocks that could rally in October. In fact, yesterday, we took a look at 25 SPX components that seemed poised to pop in the month ahead.

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