Eli Lilly COVID-19 Vaccine Trials on Pause After FDA Order

The company joined Johnson & Johnson as the latest drug maker to have its trial paused

Deputy Editor
Oct 14, 2020 at 10:43 AM
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The shares of Eli Lilly And Co (NYSE:LLY) are up 0.1%, last seen trading at $150.22 this morning, even after the company joined Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) on the list of pharmaceutical companies forced to pause one of their COVID-19 vaccine trial paused. According to a Reuters report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted Eli Lilly's antibody treatment, ACTIV-3, after it uncovered some serious quality control problems at the company's manufacturing plant, hindering the Lilly's bid to get emergency use authorization for the treatment. The company will continue its other ongoing coronavirus trials, though these could be less beneficial for patients with serious cases. 

Taking a look at the charts, it's surprising to see that just three months ago LLY hit an all-time high of $170.75. It's fallen off just over 9% in that time, and is once again facing pressure from its 50-day moving average after spending three of the last five sessions above the trendline. Still, longer term, Eli Lilly sports a 36.5% year-over-year lead.

Despite today's news, analysts are still rather optimistic toward the equity. In fact, eight of the 11 brokerages in coverage sport a "strong buy," while the remaining three call recommend a tepid "hold." Plus, the 12-month consensus price target of $165.07 is a 10% premium to current levels. 

Echoing this is the response from short sellers, who are hitting the exits in droves. Short interest down nearly 40% in the last reporting period. The 3.77 million shares sold short make up less than 1% of the stock's available float, and would take just over a day to cover, at its average daily pace of trading. 

Options traders are responding in kind to today's news. Over 5,000 calls have changed hands already, double the average intraday amount and triple the number of puts traded. Leading the charge so far is the weekly 10/23 160-strike call, where new positions are being opened. Buyers of these calls are banking on a sizable pop from LLY in the coming weeks, when the contracts expire.


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