AstraZeneca plc, Relypsa Inc Diverge on FDA Drug Rejection

AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (AZN) is down slightly, while Relypsa Inc (RLYP) is up sharply, after a note from the FDA

Alex Eppstein
May 27, 2016 at 11:06 AM
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AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN) is trading lower after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rejected the pharmaceutical giant's potassium drug on manufacturing concerns. By contrast, fellow drugmaker Relypsa Inc (NASDAQ:RLYP) -- which already markets a similar hyperkalemia treatment -- is exploding to the upside. Below, we'll take a closer look at the stocks' respective moves, and how options traders have been positioning themselves on each stock.

AZN was last seen 0.5% lower at $29.80, bringing its year-to-date loss beyond 12%. However, the shares may have found a foothold atop their 100-day moving average, above which they've been consolidating since mid-week.

Options traders are likely hoping the pharmaceutical stock takes a bounce off of that trendline. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), speculators have bought to open 4.59 AZN calls for each put during the last two weeks. The corresponding call/put volume ratio ranks in the high 88th percentile of its annual range.

Echoing the current call-skew is AZN's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.15. Not only does the SOIR indicate short-term call open interest outstrips put open interest by a more than 6-to-1 margin, it also sits at a 12-month low.

A similar bias toward calls exists in RLYP's options pits. The stock's SOIR of 0.30 ranks in the low 9th percentile of its annual range. Likewise, over the past two weeks at the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX, traders have bought to open 3.33 calls for every put. Of course, some of this call buying may have been at the hands of short sellers hedging, as 46.4% of RLYP's float is sold short.

That said, "vanilla" bulls have to be happy with Relypsa Inc's intraday performance. The pharmaceutical stock has soared 14% to trade at $18.93, making it one of the top percentage gainers on the Nasdaq. Longer term, though -- and adding credence to the protective call theory -- RLYP shares have lost 33% of their value in 2016.

Separately, it's not all bad news for AstraZeneca plc. Across the pond, the European Medicines Agency said a committee has backed the drugmaker's combination treatment for type 2 diabetes.

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