After a rocky end to 2018, biotech stocks are off to the best start of the year since 2012. According to CNBC, a positive trial presentation at the J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference has breathed new life into some of last year’s biggest stock losers.
The iShares Nasdaq Biotech Index rose 13% in the first eight trading days of the year, finishing lower just one day on Christmas Eve. It marks a major reversal following a 20% fall in the index in the fourth quarter.
Takeover speculation has been a major catalyst for the rally. Bristol-Myers Squibb’s USD 74 Billion deal to buy oncology drug maker Calgene helped fuel takeover speculation, which was quickly reaffirmed by Eli Lilly’s USD 8 Billion deal for cancer therapy biotech Loxo Oncology, at the start of the J.P. Morgan health conference on Monday.
Eli Lilly agreed to purchase Loxo Oncology at a 68% premium, which has sent the Company’s stock to fall by more than 8% for the year, as per Yahoo Finance. Loxo rose by 66% this week to about USD 232 a share. Loxo was already a market outperformer, having gained 66% in 2018.
Amarin shares more than tripled in 2018, and this week the company’s shares rose to USD 18.35, a 39% increase. Ahead of the conference, the company issued a conservative sales outlook for its new heart drug Vascepa, which was slightly below analyst estimates. However, investors came away with a more bullish outlook from Chief Executive Officer John Thero’s presentation, as stated by CNBC.
“Although nothing new was presented … the sentiment was positive from those investors we spoke with who attended the meeting,” wrote Cantor Fitzgerald analysts in a note to clients, adding that physician feedback on the drug was positive and “cardiologists in particular are appreciating the data and moving to prescribe Vascepa to patients, according to the company.”
Part of the biotech rally may be due to the oversold nature of the sector. The industry was among the market’s most oversold sectors in 2018, declining nearly 10% last year. A number of this week’s largest gainers remained in bear market territory.