Short Sellers Retreat From Biotech Stocks Again

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24/7 Wall St. has tracked the short interest in leading biotech and emerging pharmaceutical stocks. Stocks in this industry continue to be hot, but short sellers shied away from many of them in late February. Those bucking that trend include BioMarin Pharmaceutical, which got FDA and CHMP approval for Vimizim during the period, and Medivation, which said it swung to a profit.

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) saw a 5.3% decrease in late February to 10.15 million shares, or 1.3% of the total float. That was the second highest level of short interest so far this year. It would take about three days to close out all short positions.

BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. (NASDAQ: BMRN) saw a 7.6% rise in its short interest to around 6.78 million shares. That was the greatest number of shares short since last March, and it was 4.7% of the total float. The days to cover remained less than five.

Celgene Corp. (NASDAQ: CELG) saw its short interest decline by 7.9% to more than 4.57 million shares, or 1.1% of Celgene’s float. Before that, the short interest had been rising since the end of December. It still would take less than two days to cover all short positions.

Dendreon Corp. (NASDAQ: DNDN) saw its short interest shrink to 44.13 million shares from the 44.94 million in mid-February. The number of shares sold short has dwindled for nine straight periods to the lowest level in at least a year, but it still represents 29.4% of the float. And note that the days to cover is about 20.

Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) had a 0.4% rise to 87.60 million shares short. That was the highest level of short interest in the past year, after rising in 10 of the past 11 periods. It totaled 5.7% of the total float. The days to cover rose to about eight.

Medivation Inc. (NASDAQ: MDVN) saw the biggest gain in short interest among the biotech companies featured here, 10.6%, to more than 3.47 million shares by the end of the month. That more than reclaimed the decline in the previous period, and it totaled 4.7% of the company’s float. It would take less than two days to close out all short positions.

Other biotech companies that saw a decrease in their short interest between the February 14 and February 28 settlement dates include Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Illumina, Incyte, Pharmacyclics, Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, the number of shares sold short in Biogen Idec and Seattle Genetics swelled somewhat during the period.