Moderna Stock Snags New Highs on Promising COVID-19 Vaccine Study

MRNA is up over 300% this year

by Jake Scott

Published on May 18, 2020 at 11:16 AM
Updated on May 18, 2020 at 11:22 AM

The shares of Moderna Inc (NASDAQ:MRNA) are trading at new record highs, up 28.2% at $85.52, after its COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, produced antibodies in all 45 participants during its early-stage human trial. The news has injected Wall Street with an extreme amount of optimism, as the company looks to move on to late-stage trials. 

Moderna's role as a front runner in the race to cure the coronavirus has more than tripled the stock's value this year, up 318% at last check. Today's surge puts MRNA well above its recent $68 ceiling where the shares consolidated last week after hitting an all-time high of $68.49 on Tuesday, May 12. Now, the stock is eyeing its biggest one-month jump ever, up 80% in May, so far. 

There is already an ample amount of optimism surrounding Moderna stock. Of the nine analysts in coverage, eight consider it a "buy" or better, with one saying "hold." Plus, Piper Sandler just chimed in with a price-target hike to $102 from $57. There's certainly the possibility of more members of the brokerage bunch following Piper Sandler's lead, too. The consensus 12-month price target of $73.10 still sits at a 12.2% discount to current levels.

Naturally, options players are also wanting to get in on the action today. So far, 52,000 calls and 23,000 puts have crossed the tape, which is five times the intraday average. The most popular position is the weekly 5/22 100-strike call, with positions being opened here. This means these traders are expecting even more upside for the underlying stock by the time these contracts expire this Friday, May 22. 

A look back, however, shows that options players have been unusually bearish. This is per MRNA's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.41 at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Cboe Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), which sits in the 93rd percentile of its annual range. Echoing this, Moderna's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.79 is higher than all but 10% of all other readings from the last year, implying short-term options traders have rarely been more put-biased. 

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