Johnson & Johnson, Options, and the $400 Billion Ceiling

JNJ remains stifled by the $400 billion market cap level

Sep 4, 2020 at 12:29 PM
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As fall approaches and 2020 begins its final chapter, the race for a COVID-19 vaccine is nearing the straightaway. Drug companies such as Moderna (MRNA) are beginning late-stage trials, while others such as Pfizer (PFE) receive more bags of government money. Somehow, the news cycle tends to gloss over blue-chip Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), which is quietly prepping a 60,000 participant phase 3 trial set to begin in September; double the enrollment of Moderna and Pfizer's (PFE) combined. As the finish line draws near, let’s take a look at JNJ's technical setup, and see if there's any opportunity for options traders.

This month, Johnson & Johnson has finally been able to find some separation between its year-to-date breakeven level. The shares' ascending 10-day moving average has guided the gains, with JNJ breaching this trendline only three times in August. However, there are other trendlines to consider. Since January 2018, JNJ has been stifled on two occasions now by the $400 billion market cap level. This isn't a date plucked out of a hat; January 2018 marks the beginning of the China trade war rhetoric wrought from the Trump administration. It's no secret that Johnson & Johnson – a foremost leader in medical innovation -- is looking to expand its manufacturing and research footprint in China.

While JNJ remained stymied by the $400 billion market cap, 2020 darling Tesla (TSLA) has raced – no pun intended – past that ceiling and now sits at $407.41 billion. So even despite all of that positive price action in the last month, the upward movement has still not shattered that formidable market cap ceiling. And the shares could be headed for a short-term breather; JNJ's 14-day Relative Strength Index (RSI), closed Thursday night at 67, on the cusp of overbought territory.

However, there is some silver lining. Amidst all of this hand-wringing, JNJ remains a chip-shot from its April 23 record high of $157. This renewed run at record highs comes amid historically low implied volatility (IV), which has been a bullish combination for the Dow stock in the past. According to data from Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White, there has been one other time in the past five years when the stock was trading within 2% of a 52-week high, while its Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) sat in the 20th percentile of its annual range or lower -- as is the case with JNJ's current SVI of 19%, which sits just above the 10th percentile of its 12-month range. The data shows that one month after this signal, the security was higher by 4.5%.

Of course that's not a particularly eye-popping signal, and comes attached with the aforementioned market cap and RSI caveats. It's not uncommon for a stock to be flashing both bullish and bearish signals from a quantitative and technical perspective; it's the investor’s job to parse out all of the information and make a decision from there. But what's clear is that there can be multiple winners in this COVID-19 vaccine race, and that makes the future directionality of biotech stocks such as JNJ vague at best. With this in mind, it's important to remember the viability of options strategies such as straddles, that allow one to profit from explosive moves in either direction.

Subscribers to Bernie Schaeffer's Chart of the Week received this commentary on Sunday, August 30.


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