How Trial Results Are Moving These 2 Biotech Stocks

Biotech stocks ZIOPHARM Oncology, Inc. (ZIOP) and Novartis AG (ADR) (NVS) are making moves on the latest in breast cancer research

Oct 10, 2016 at 1:42 PM
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Several biotech stocks are making moves today following cancer drug trial results. Two of today's big biotech stocks making news today are ZIOPHARM Oncology, Inc. (NASDAQ:ZIOP) and Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS), following new developments with their respective breast cancer treatments.

ZIOP's breast cancer gene therapy Ad-RTS-hIL-12 has shown a higher-than-expected incidence of cytokine release syndrome (CRS), a potentially fatal immune system reaction, in Phase 2 trials -- but testing will continue, with ZIOP calling the initial study results "promising." ZIOP is up 1.1% at $5.75 this afternoon, but the stock has traded on both sides of breakeven in today's session. ZIOP has lost 30.8% so far in 2016, and rally attempts have run into resistance around the $6 level in recent months.

In the option pits, ZIOP's October 6 call is the leading open interest position -- though at least a portion of this activity is of the sell-to-open variety. By selling to open the calls, option traders are expecting shares of ZIOPHARM Oncology, Inc. to stay at or below the $6 mark through front-month expiration. In fact, the concentration of option open interest around this strike could reinforce technical resistance for the shares during the short term.

On a more upbeat note, NVS over the weekend revealed the specifics of its ribociclib study results, which it had already deemed a success back in May. However, NVS is still down 0.9% at $77.61 so far for the day, after a price-target cut by Chardan Capital to $92 from $95.

NVS is down more than 18% from its October 2015 high north of $95 -- and short sellers appear to be taking some profits, with short interest down 16.3% over the last two reporting periods. This burst of short-covering activity may have helped Novartis AG (ADR) stage a short-lived bounce from the $78 level during the first several weeks of September, though NVS is now trading back at its lowest levels since late June.

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