Cerus Corporation (CERS) Bursts Higher on BARDA Funding

Cerus Corporation (CERS) has secured funding from BARDA, sending the stock sharply higher

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Jun 20, 2016 at 10:02 AM

Cerus Corporation (NASDAQ:CERS) has shot 8% higher out of the gate to $6.15, after the healthcare firm secured up to $180 million in funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The upward gap should be a welcome sight in the options pits, where traders have been betting bullishly.

Specifically, during the last two weeks at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), options traders have bought to open 7.80 CERS calls for every put. Underscoring this call bias, the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.02 ranks in the bottom one-third of all readings taken in the past year.

Hopes are also high within the brokerage community. All four analysts tracking CERS rate the shares a "strong buy." What's more, the stock's consensus 12-month price target of $9.50 resides in territory not charted since late 2007, and represents a more than 54% premium to current trading levels.

But there is one pocket of significant skepticism. Specifically, short interest on CERS popped 14.5% during the two most recent reporting periods, and accounts for over 17% of the stock's float. At CERS' average daily volume, it would take almost three weeks to cover these bearish bets. In fact, it's possible some of these short sellers have purchased calls to hedge their positions against sharp rallies -- like the one we're seeing today.

Technically speaking, Cerus Corporation (NASDAQ:CERS) has been a sight to behold since bottoming at $4.90 on May 20. In the ensuing month, the stock has surged over 25%. In fact, with today's bullish gap, the shares are close to muscling back into positive year-to-date territory for the first time since early May.

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