2 Surging Drug Stocks

Positive mid-stage NASH treatment data is fueling a big day for MDGL

May 31, 2018 at 10:07 AM
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Canaccord Genuity upgraded Biogen Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB) to "buy" from "hold," saying it likes "the potential for the stock to benefit from a fear-of-missing-out rally as more data points crop up on BIIB's high-stakes Alzheimer's disease (AD) pipeline bets." However, the brokerage firm also lowered its price target to $335 to $350 -- a roughly 14%  premium to last night's close at $294.40 -- due to the company's conservative revenue forecast.

As a result, BIIB stock is up 1.6% out of the gate to trade at $299.01, extending a recent rebound off its late April lows below $250. What's more, the equity has pulled above the $296-$298 region, which coincides with a 38.2% Fibonacci retracement of its January through April sell-off, as well as its 120-day moving average.

Options traders, meanwhile, have been unusually bearish on Biogen in recent weeks. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.18 ranks in the 97th annual percentile, meaning puts have been bought to open over calls at a quicker-than-usual clip.

Another drug stock making a notable move higher today is Madrigal Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:MDGL). The shares were last seen up 120.6% at $239.20 -- fresh off a four-year high of $246.55 -- after the company's treatment for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) met its main goal in a mid-stage study.

More broadly, MDGL stock broke higher in early December on strong early stage data for its liver drug, eventually topping out at a then multi-year peak near $155 in January. Since then, the shares had been chopping between $110 and $120, but are now on track to snap their three-month losing streak -- and boast a 138% year-to-date return.

Today's surge is likely getting some help from short sellers, too. Though short interest is down slightly from its early May record peak, there are still 1.32 million MDGL shares sold short -- 22.4% of the stock's available float, and 7.3 times the average daily pace of trading. The equity could see even bigger gains, should these bearish bettors continue to cover.

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