3 Surging Healthcare Stocks

Cowen reiterated that ILMN is a top pick for 2018

by Karee Venema

Published on Jan 9, 2018 at 2:58 PM

The U.S. stock market is scaling record highs once again, as bank stocks surge ahead of the start of earnings season. A rally in healthcare shares is also lifting the broader equities indexes, with sickle cell specialist Global Blood Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:GBT), genetic testing name Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN), and chronic pain expert Pain Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:PTIE) all on the move. Here's a quick roundup of what's lifting shares of GBT, ILMN, and PTIE.

Global Blood Therapeutics Stock Squeezes Shorts After FDA Nod

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted breakthrough therapy status to Global Blood Therapeutics' sickle cell disease (SCD) drug, voxelotor. In reaction, GBT stock is up 19.3% to trade at $47.25, earlier hitting a two-year high of $48.85.

The shares have put in an impressive performance over the past 12 months, nearly doubling in value. While successful tests of its 200-day moving average in August and September helped the stock on its next leg higher, the 60-day trendline more recently emerged as support during a mid-December pullback.

And while short interest declined from a record high 6.24 million shares over the Oct. 15-Dec. 1 reporting periods, these bearish bets surged 18.5% in the most recent two-week period. As such, it's possible some of today's rally is at the hands of short sellers, who are once again capitulating to the equity's strength.

Illumina Stock Hits Record High After Earnings Update

Illumina reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter and full-year revenue at J.P. Morgan's 2018 Healthcare Conference last night, and gave a full-year 2018 profit forecast that matched the consensus estimate. Analysts have been quick to weigh in, too, with Barclays boosting its ILMN price target to $200 from $185, and Cowen reiterating its "outperform" rating and underscoring that Illumina is a top genomics tools pick for 2018.

After hitting a record high of $245.74 earlier, ILMN was last seen trading up 7.4% at $243.76. Longer term, the shares are up 72.4% year-over-year, with their 50-day moving average helping to guide them higher since an early August bull gap.

Despite this impressive technical showing, calls are pricing in lower volatility expectations, relative to their put counterparts. ILMN's 30-day implied volatility skew of 8.2% ranks in the elevated 79th annual percentile.

Pain Therapeutics Stock at Top of Nasdaq After Drug Data

Pain Therapeutics reported positive late-stage trial data for Remoxy, its nasal-administered pain treatment intended to deter opioid abuse, compared to immediate-release oxycodone. After being halted several times for volatility, PTIE was most recently seen up 157.2% to trade at $10.85 -- earlier hitting a new annual high of $12.80 -- easily the best Nasdaq stock so far.

The surging stock -- which had been stuck churning in the $4.50-$5.00 range since May -- could be in the middle of a short-covering rally, too. Heading into today's trading, 16.79% of PTIE stock's float was sold short, representing 19 times its average daily pace of trading.

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