By Philip van Doorn, MarketWatch
Health care is the best-performing sector in the Nasdaq this year, and it may not be too late to buy stocks at attractive prices.
The Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -3.52% is close to passing the 5,000 mark, returning to a high set way back in 2000 before the dot-com bubble burst. This time around, the stock market doesn’t appear as “frothy” as it did before that crash, according to Mark Hulbert. It’s also interesting to note that the Nasdaq has outperformed other broad indices this year, as well as during 2014 and over the past three-year, five-year and 10-year periods.
This week we published lists of the top 10 Nasdaq stocks for the time periods listed above.
Among the Nasdaq’s 10 broad benchmark sectors, the strongest this year has been health care, which is up 6.2%, compared with a 4.9% return for the Nasdaq and a 2.8% return for the large-cap S&P 500 Index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -2.45% .
Looking at the Nasdaq chart above, the action appears healthy, as the 20-day and 50-day moving averages are well above the 200-day average, and both the 20-day and 50-day averages are on upward curves.
Here’s a similar chart for the Nasdaq U.S. Benchmark Health Care Index:
Nasdaq’s health-care winners
When looking at the best performers among Nasdaq stocks, especially for relatively short periods, the numbers can be astounding. But there’s tremendous volatility as companies try to bring new technologies and products to the market.
Here are this year’s 10 strongest performers among Nasdaq stocks in various health-care industries, along with returns for previous periods:
|Company||Ticker||Industry||Total return - YTD||Total return - 2014||Total return - 3 years||Total return - 5 years|
|Capnia Inc.||Medical Specialties||336%||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Anthera Pharmaceuticals Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/200523620/composite ANTH||Biotechnology||213%||-49%||-91%||N/A|
|Semler Scientific Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/201267132/composite SMLR||Medical Specialties||142%||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Eagle Pharmaceuticals Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/200611523/composite EGRX||Pharmaceuticals||119%||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Foundation Medicine Inc.||Biotechnology||117%||-7%||N/A||N/A|
|Celluar Biomedicine Group Inc.||Biotechnology||116%||153%||249%||166%|
|Curis Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/207276322/composite CRIS||Biotechnology||110%||-47%||-31%||26%|
|Apricus Biosciences Inc.||Medical Specialties||107%||-62%||-40%||-72%|
|Echo Therapeutics Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/205706544/composite ECTE||Medical Specialties||106%||-57%||-84%||-85%|
|Total returns assume reinvestment of dividends. Source: FactSet|
As you can see, most of those companies have been listed rather recently, and the longer-term returns show plenty of risk. Those stocks shouldn’t be taken lightly. You must be willing to do research on your own, while also reading any research reports your broker or adviser can provide.
Another interesting thing to note is that the companies above aren’t necessarily expected to turn operating profits any time soon. But there is one exception.
Cheapest Nasdaq health-care stocks
Here’s a list of the 10 cheapest Nasdaq health-care stocks, based on consensus 2016 earnings estimates among analysts polled by FactSet:
|Company||Ticker||Industry||Closing price - Feb. 23||Consensus 2016 EPS estimate||Forward P/E||Total return - YTD|
|AMAG Pharmaceuticals Inc.||Biotechnology||$43.93||$7.41||5.9||3%|
|Rockwell Medical Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/208743423/composite RMTI||Medical Specialties||$10.34||$1.72||6.0||1%|
|Supernus Pharmaceuticals Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/203126024/composite SUPN||Pharmaceuticals||$8.75||$1.25||7.0||5%|
|Vascular Biogenics Ltd.||/zigman2/quotes/205948128/composite VBLT||Biotechnology||$4.08||$0.57||7.1||-31%|
|Flamel Technologies SA Sponsored ADR||Medical Specialties||$14.33||$1.90||7.6||-16%|
|PDL BioPharma Inc.||Biotechnology||$7.34||$0.79||9.4||-5%|
|Eagle Pharmaceuticals Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/200611523/composite EGRX||Pharmaceuticals||$34.00||$3.60||9.4||119%|
|LifeVantage Corp.||/zigman2/quotes/208443358/composite LFVN||Pharmaceuticals||$0.96||$0.10||9.6||-26%|
|Enanta Pharmaceuticals Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/209139157/composite ENTA||Biotechnology||$35.55||$3.64||9.8||-30%|
Eagle Pharmaceuticals Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200611523/composite EGRX +0.22% of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., is the only company appearing on both lists. Of course, a company doesn’t need to have prospects for near-term profitability for investors to make a killing on its stock, but the expected profits could make the investment less risky.
Eagle Pharmaceuticals develops products and services designed to make injectable drugs more effective and safer, and to make the delivery and administration of the drugs more efficient.
The company’s stock shot up 24% on Feb. 17 and then another 41% the next day, after the company said it had entered into a licensing agreement with Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205657894/composite TEVA -2.83% , through which Eagle would receive an immediate payment of $30 million for the development of its rapid infusion bendamustine product. Eagle may receive another $90 million in additional payments from Teva when it hits certain milestones, and also will receive “double-digit royalties” from Teva’s sales of the product.
All three sell-side analysts covering Eagle Pharmaceuticals rate the shares “buy,” or overweight, according to FactSet.
Piper Jaffray analyst David Amsellem on Feb. 18 raised his price target for the shares to $41 from $23 and estimated the company would earn $2.74 a share in 2016. In a note to clients, Amsellem wrote that the deal with Teva “enables a potential near-term launch (possibly in the second half of 2015), and opens EGRX up to an attractive royalty stream, particularly considering that visibility on sustained exclusivity for EP-3102 [the rapid infusion bendamustine product] (or relatively limited competition at worst over the long-term) in our view is strong.”