Biotech Stocks That the Smart Money Don't Agree On

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Biotech companies can have highly uncertain futures because their success often depends on government approval of their product, which may sometimes take over a decade to develop and test. Because of the high barriers to success, some large investors like to short these stocks, but others like to bet on their approval. Learn more about these terms below.

Institutional transactions
Institutional investors are also known as "big money" investors. They manage large pools of money such as mutual funds and hedge funds. When they invest in stocks, they can invest hundreds of thousands of dollars or more at one time. These transactions, called "block trades," can have a significant effect on share prices.

Because institutional investors handle such large amounts of money, it is easy enough to assume that the big money managers know more than the average investor. This is why these investors are also sometimes referred to as "smart money," and why their trades are so closely followed.

Short transactions
When an investor sells a stock short, they stand to profit if the share price falls. To short-sell a stock, the investor must borrow the shares from someone else. Doing so implies the use of margin, or borrowing ability from the brokerage. Because of this, the investor must go through background checks, so it usually means that they are a more sophisticated investor.

When those investors begin to buy back the shares they are borrowing, short covering occurs. This could mean that the investors believe the stock has reached its lowest point, and might be on the way back up. In general:

Short-selling = BEARISH perspective on the stock
Short covering = BULLISH perspective on the stock

Business section: Investing ideas
We started this screen with biotech companies with market caps over $300M, and then checked institutional and short transactions. We found that institutional investors were buying the stock, while short-sellers were increasing their positions. Could this mean the institutional investors are expecting to see a short squeeze in the near future?

List sorted by market cap. (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)

1. Questcor Pharmaceuticals (NAS: QCOR) : Provides prescription drugs for central nervous system and inflammatory disorders. Market cap at $2.41B. Net institutional purchases in the current quarter at 1.9M shares, which represents about 3.21% of the company's float of 59.18M shares. Shares shorted have increased from 10.57M to 12.35M over the last month, an increase which represents about 3.01% of the company's float of 59.18M shares

2. Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NAS: AMLN) : Engages in the discovery, development, and commercialization of drug candidates for the treatment of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases. Market cap at $2.38B. Net institutional purchases in the current quarter at 7.2M shares, which represents about 5.45% of the company's float of 132.09M shares. Shares shorted have increased from 11.86M to 16.46M over the last month, an increase which represents about 3.48% of the company's float of 132.09M shares

3. Medivation (NAS: MDVN) : Focuses on the development of small molecule drugs for the treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and Huntington disease. Market cap at $2.31B. Net institutional purchases in the current quarter at 993.2K shares, which represents about 3.73% of the company's float of 26.65M shares. Shares shorted have increased from 2.35M to 2.88M over the last month, an increase which represents about 1.97% of the company's float of 26.86M shares

4. Momenta Pharmaceuticals (NAS: MNTA) : A biotechnology company, specializes in the in the characterization and process engineering of complex molecules. Market cap at $759.68M. Net institutional purchases in the current quarter at 3.0M shares, which represents about 7.62% of the company's float of 39.39M shares. Shares shorted have increased from 5.59M to 7.19M over the last month, an increase which represents about 4.06% of the company's float of 39.39M shares

5. Spectrum Pharmaceuticals (NAS: SPPI) : A commercial-stage biotechnology company, primarily focuses on oncology and hematology. Market cap at $749.51M. Net institutional purchases in the current quarter at 8.7M shares, which represents about 17.63% of the company's float of 49.35M shares. Shares shorted have increased from 13.64M to 15.79M over the last month, an increase which represents about 4.36% of the company's float of 49.35M shares

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.


Kapitall's Daniel Guttridge does not own any of the shares mentioned above.

At the time this article was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Momenta Pharmaceuticals. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Momenta Pharmaceuticals. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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