Drug Stock Breaking Out After Gene Therapy Collaboration

A short squeeze could push CRSP even higher

Managing Editor
Jun 7, 2019 at 10:02 AM
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The shares of CRISPR Therapeutics AG (NASDAQ:CRSP) are up 13.2% to trade at $42.18 this morning, after the drugmaker announced an expanded gene therapy collaboration with Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX). CRISPR could receive up to a total of $1 billion in payments if the gene editing programs' milestones are achieved. 

CRISPR stock is on track for its best day since Feb 25. Since that bull gap, CRSP shares have traded in a tight range, with the $42 level looming overhead and the $34 area cushioning pullbacks. Today's rally seems to have lost steam at the shares' 320-day moving average; a trendline not conquered on a closing basis since October 2018.  

A short squeeze could help the drug stock break past this ceiling. Short interest fell in the two most recent reporting periods, yet the 5.41 million shares sold short still accounts for a healthy 17.3% of CRSP's total available float, and eight days' worth of pent-up buying power, at its average pace of trading.

In the options pits, puts have emerged as the preference. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the equity's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.69 ranks in the 93rd annual percentile. An unwinding of these bearish bets could also fuel the equity's breakout.

Options look to be the ideal vehicle to bet on CRSP. The security's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 56% stands higher than only 12% of all other readings from the past year. This means that near-term option traders are pricing in relatively low volatility expectations. 


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