3 Biotech Stocks Getting Blasted

It's been a dismal day for biotech stocks, including BLUE, ICPT, and TRIL

Nov 3, 2016 at 2:17 PM
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Biotech stocks are getting burned today amid a variety of fundamental follies. Among the drugmakers getting dragged lower are bluebird bio Inc (NASDAQ:BLUE), Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:ICPT), and Trillium Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIL).

BLUE was last seen on a 4% deficit at $44.55, after the biotech posted a wider-than-expected quarterly loss. What's more, Cantor Fitzgerald reiterated its "sell" rating and $37 price target -- which the shares approached at their intraday low of $37.05. Future downgrades are a possibility, too, considering the stock has received 11 "strong buy" recommendations versus just two "holds" and one "strong sell."

While BLUE is on the short-sale restricted (SSR) list, it's already fielded plenty of interest from shorts prior to today. In fact, one-quarter of the stock's available float is sold short, which translates into a week's worth of trading activity, based on the shares' average daily volume. Elsewhere, bluebird bio Inc's put options are trading at nine times the usual intraday pace, and in the 99th percentile of their annual range.

Another biotech that's bombing today is ICPT, which has plunged 12.3% at $103.09 and also landed on the SSR list. Today's selloff was triggered by the drugmaker's disappointing quarterly sales. Longer term, the stock is on pace for its lowest daily close since mid-February.

From a contrarian perspective, things are looking dangerous for ICPT, given the surrounding levels of optimism. Specifically, the shares may be vulnerable to downgrades, considering eight of 13 analysts strongly recommend buying the stock. Also, a capitulation among option bulls could trigger headwinds. Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc sports a 50-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) call/put volume ratio of 4.63 -- just 9 percentage points from an annual high.

Finally, the worst performer among our trio of biotechs is TRIL, which is jockeying for the title of biggest Nasdaq loser of the day -- and finding competition from one drug distributor. Right now, the SSR stock is down 50.7% at $7.20, and on track for its lowest close since mid-March, after being halted for volatility earlier. The downside catalyst looks to be a poorly received abstract for an upcoming hematology conference.

On the sentiment front, though, Leerink Swann and Cowen both reiterated the equivalent of a "buy" recommendation, with the former also repeating its $20 price target. This optimism is par for the course. As of yesterday's close, all three analysts following Trillium Therapeutics Inc. had dished out "strong buy" ratings -- something that could change, if the stock doesn't reverse its course quickly.

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