3 Biotechs Making Waves: MRK, PFE, and GILD

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), and Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) are making headlines today

by Karee Venema

Published on Jul 28, 2015 at 11:54 AM

Biotechs are in focus today, following earnings from a number of notable names -- as well as the latest round of news from headline-making Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:TEVA). Drilling down, specific drugmakers grabbing the attention of Wall Street today include Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), and Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD).

MRK reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings and upped its full-year profit forecast amid growing demand for its diabetes and cancer treatments. Additionally, the company waxed optimistic over its $8.4 billion acquisition of Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc, and said it bought cancer immunotherapy specialist cCAM Biotherapeutics. At last check, the security was up 0.6% at $57.35, after earlier bouncing from $56 -- an area that contained pullbacks in late October and mid-March.

Option traders, meanwhile, had been bracing for a post-earnings pullback. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), Merck & Co., Inc.'s 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.01 rests in the 81st annual percentile. Simply stated, puts have been bought to open over calls at a faster-than-usual clip in recent weeks.

Fellow Dow component PFE also unveiled its earnings report, with the firm's second-quarter results topping estimates. What's more, the company raised its full-year profit outlook, after global vaccine sales jumped 44%. The fundamental win has sent the shares 1.7% higher today to trade at $34.95. Longer term, PFE has tacked on 12.2% year-to-date, and is within striking distance of its April 13 10-year high of $35.53.

Similar to MRK, skepticism has been running high in PFE's options pits, per the stock's 10-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX put/call volume ratio of 1.23 -- in the 92nd percentile of its annual range. Plus, 63% of analysts still maintain a "hold" or "strong sell" rating on Pfizer Inc. Should the security continue its uptrend, a capitulation from option bears and/or a round of upgrades could help fuel its fire.

GILD -- which will step up to the earnings plate after tonight's close -- last night announced a pair of new additions to its senior leadership team. The stock initially swung 2.2% higher out of the gate, but was last seen up 0.7% at $111.28. Year-to-date, shares of GILD have added 18%, and after hitting an all-time high of $123.37 in late June, have pulled back to their rising 80-day moving average.

Call players have been flooding the equity's options pits in recent weeks. At the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX, Gilead Sciences, Inc.'s 10-day call/put volume ratio of 3.55 sits just 10 percentage points from a 52-week peak. Echoing this is the stock's gamma-weighted Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.65, which indicates near-the-money call open interest outweighs put open interest among options expiring in three months or less.

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