Defense Stock Rallies as President Trump Looks to Space

President Trump called for the expansion of the U.S. missile strategy earlier today

by Patrick Martin

Published on Jan 17, 2019 at 2:59 PM
Updated on Jun 24, 2020 at 10:16 AM

Stocks are confidently in the black at midday, flipping higher despite a subpar earnings report from banking giant Morgan Stanley. Among names making notable moves higher are defense stock Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), healthcare concern Five Prime Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:FPRX), and auto retailer Cars.com Inc (NYSE:CARS). Below, we'll take a look at what's moving the shares of NOC, FPRX, and CARS.

NOC Headed Toward Fourth Straight Weekly Win

Earlier today, President Donald Trump announced an overhaul of the U.S.' missile defense strategy, with an added emphasis on experimental space-based sensor missiles. In response, defense stocks across the board are higher, and Northrop Grumman is up 3.1% to trade at $263.57 at last check. The shares are on track for their fourth straight weekly win, and barring any sudden pivot will close above their 50-day moving average for the first time since mid-October. 

In the options pits, the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.52 sits in the 6th percentile of its annual range. So not only does call open interest roughly double put open interest among contracts expiring within three months, but the low percentile rank means that near-term option traders have rarely been more call-biased during the past year. Of course, we'll want to check back on this reading soon, since the January series is set to expire tomorrow.

Upgrade Fueling FPRX's Best Week Since September 2017

Five Prime Therapeutics stock is up 8.9% to trade at $10.93, after Wedbush upgraded the biotech name to "outperform" from "neutral." The analyst in coverage glowed about the company's pipeline, as well as its pancreatic cancer therapy. FPRX is on track for its best week since September 2017, and today could topple its 40-day moving average on a closing basis for the first time in over a month. Nevertheless, the equity still has a year-over-year deficit of roughly 50%. 

Meanwhile, short interest declined by a quarter in the last two reporting periods to  16.14 million shares. However, this still represents nearly 6% of the equity's total available float. 

CARS Stock Pops on Sales Talk

Cars.com announced today that it was exploring a potential sale. The news, which had been urged at by investors at a meeting last month, has sent CARS up 5.8% to trade at $24.48 at last check. Stoking the bullish flames is an upgrade to "buy" from "hold," as well as a price-target hike to $30 at Craig-Hallum, which believes a sale could mean a much higher valuation. The stock earlier gapped as high as $26, but has moved back below its 80-day moving average, a trendline that served as a stiff ceiling since early August. 

A capitulation from bears could power CARS even higher. Short interest fell by 8.4% in the last two reporting periods to 13.18 million shares, the lowest since 2005. However, this still represents 22% of the equity's total available float, and almost 13 days of pent-up buying power, at its average pace of trading.


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