Analyst Picks Best Stocks to Buy, Sell in a Recession

Options traders may have scored nice profits on APHA's rise

by Josh Selway

Published on Dec 28, 2018 at 2:56 PM

Stocks are volatile again, but the Dow remains on pace for a weekly win. Three individual names making notable moves today are health insurer Centene Corp (NYSE:CNC), weed stock Aphria Inc (NYSE:APHA), and cellular therapy issue Vericel Corp (NASDAQ:VCEL). Here's what's happening with shares of CNC, APHA, and VCEL.

CNC Stock Gets Big Piper Jaffray Endorsement

CNC stock is down 0.6% at $113.06, even though Piper Jaffray said it would be a name to buy if a recession hits. On the flip side, the brokerage firm said it would sell hospital operator Community Health Systems (CYH). On the charts, Centene is up 125% in 2018, though it recently took a notable trip south of the 200-day moving average for the first time in over a year.

Bullish analyst attention is nothing new for CNC. In fact, 11 of the 14 firms in coverage have "buy" or "strong buy" ratings, with zero "sells" to be found.

APHA Holds Gains Despite Scoffing at Takeover Bid

APHA's rise is one of the few big stories on Wall Street today, with the cannabis concern last seen up 13.5% at $6.28, on news of a hostile takeover attempt from Green Growth Brands (GGB). The company has responded saying the proposal of $2.1 billion, or $8.09 per share, "significantly" undervalues Aphria.

The shares remain on pace for their first close above the 20-day moving average since the trendline first formed in late November -- but remain far below their Nov. 7 peak at $13.45. There had been notable options activity on the security coming into today, with 9,458 calls bought to open in the past 10 days at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), compared to just 1,179 puts.

VCEL Shares Jump

VCEL stock is rallying today, last seen near session highs at $17.25, up 9.2% on the day. The reason for the strong price action isn't clear, though this move puts the shares back above the $16 and $17 levels that briefly acted as support in the past two months. The equity is a long-term outperformer, more than tripling in value on a year-to-date basis.

Despite this, it's seen little attention from analysts and traders. Specifically, just four brokerage firms are in coverage (though they all have "strong buy" ratings) and only 194 options were bought to open during the past two weeks at the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX.

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