Posts

June 12, 2019

Global Market Comments
June 12, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(MONDAY, JUNE 24 MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA STRATEGY LUNCHEON)
(AMGEN’S BIG LUNG CANCER BREAKTHROUGH),
(AMGN), (GSK), (MRTX)

Amgen’s Big Lung Cancer Breakthrough

I recently heard that some of my hedge fund friends were loading up on Amgen (AMGN) and now I know why. It’s a company I know well because my UCLA biochemistry professor was its first chairman.

Amgen has accomplished a major medical breakthrough. The company has revealed that its experimental drug, AMG 510, exhibited the ability to significantly shrink the size of tumors by 50%. The results were obtained from early-stage trials performed on advanced lung cancer patients.

In a nutshell, AMG 510 could become the first-ever approved treatment that can target a mutated gene called KRAS which is one of the most common mutations involved in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The American Cancer Society identified NSCLC as the leading cause of cancer death, accounting for a stunning 85% of lung cancers.

For decades, researchers have been searching for ways to address KRAS mutations, with the sought-after solution dubbed as the "the great white whale of drug discovery." With the first proof-of-concept presented a mere six years ago, the rapid development of Amgen’s new drug has impressed researchers in the field.

Simply put, this drug will be a game changer for particular types of cancer. Subsequently, its success would mean massive profits for Amgen shareholders.

The announcement of AMG 510’s promising results saw a jump in Amgen shares of 6.1% delivering a new two-year high. While this product remains in its initial phase, the fact that this cancer drug addresses a vital unmet need in oncology makes it a prime candidate in becoming the next blockbuster drug for Amgen.

Aside from lung cancer, this drug is also aimed at providing treatment for colorectal cancer and nearly uncurable pancreatic cancer (of which Steve Jobs died). To date, AMG 510 sales are estimated to initially reach more than $1 billion a year and peak at $2 billion.

With the extremely massive market for this particular drug, it comes as no surprise that Amgen is not alone in the race.

So far, two more biopharma companies are looking to develop similar medications: GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) and Mirati Therapeutics (MRTX). While the former has yet to reveal the covalent inhibitor drug it’s currently developing, reports indicate that Mirati’s work involves a drug called MRTX849. Aside from these, no other information has been released by the two companies.

While these are encouraging results vis-à-vis its oncology department, how is Amgen doing so far this year with the rest of its business?

Based on its earnings report in the first quarter of 2019, Amgen recorded $5.6 billion in total revenues. This matches the amount the company reported during the same quarter in 2018. Despite the promising projects in its pipeline, Amgen’s product sales saw a 1% dip globally.

However, its new products showed double-digit increases in the first quarter. Osteoporosis and hypercalcemia drug Prolia reported a 20% increase while cardiovascular medication Repatha also showed a 15% revenue jump during the first quarter. Even the revenues for relapsed multiple myeloma treatment Kyprolis showed a 10% rise in this period.

As for its earnings per share (EPS), Amgen is coming in at $12.53. This indicates an EPS growth of 14.8% this year, which could lead to a projected 5.25% EPS growth for 2020.

Meanwhile, Amgen’s positive outlook particularly with AMG 510 as an additional blockbuster drug in its portfolio prompted the company to adjust its earnings expectations for this year. In terms of its expected revenue, Amgen raised it from $21.8 billion to $22.9 billion range to $22 billion to $22.9 billion.

 

 

March 14, 2019

Global Market Comments
March 14, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(LEARN MORE ABOUT ME THAN YOU PROBABLY WANT TO KNOW),
(GOOG), (AMZN), (AMGN)

Learn More About Me Than You Probably Want to Know

As you may imagine, the most interesting man in the world is impossible to shop for when it comes to Christmas and birthdays.

So, it was no surprise when I opened a box and found a DNA testing kit from 23 and Me. So, I spit into a small test tube to humor the kids, mailed it off, and forgot about it.

I have long been a keeper of the Thomas family history and legends, so it would be interesting to learn which were true and which were myths.

A month later, what I discovered was amazing.

For a start, I am related to Louis the 16th, the last Bourbon king of France who was beheaded after the 1789 revolution.

I am a direct descendant from Otzi the Iceman who is 5,000 years old and was recently discovered frozen in an Alpine glacier. He currently resides in mummified form in an Italian museum.

Oh, one more. The reason I don’t have any hair on my back is that I carry 346 gene fragments that I inherited directly from a Neanderthal. Yes, I am part caveman, although past girlfriends suspected as much.

There were other conclusions.

I have a higher than average probability of getting prostate cancer, advanced macular degeneration (my mother had it), celiac disease, and melanoma.

The service also offered to introduce me to 1,107 close relatives around the world who I didn’t know, mostly in New York, California, and Florida.

The French connection I already knew about. During the 16th century, my ancestors rebelled against the French kings over the non-payment of taxes and were exiled to Louisiana. Fleeing a malaria epidemic, they moved up the Mississippi River to St. Louis and stayed there for 200 years. When gold was discovered in California in 1849, they joined a wagon train west. We have been here ever since.

I am half Italian and have birth certificates going back to 1800 to prove it. But 23 and Me says that I am only 40.7% Italian (see table below). It turns out that your genes show not only where you came from, but also who invaded your home country since the beginning of time.

In Italy’s case that would include the ancient Greeks, Vikings, Arabs, the Normans, French, Germans, and the Spanish, thus making up my other 9.3%. Your genes also reflect the slaves your ancestors owned, for obvious reasons.

23 and Me was founded in 2006 by Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google founder Sergei Brin. It is owned today by her and a few other partners. Its name is based on the fact that humans' entire DNA code is found on 23 chromosomes.

23 and Me and other competitors like Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, and Living DNA have sparked a DNA boom that has lead to once unimaged economic and social consequences. DNA promises to be for the 21st century what electricity was to the 20th century. The investment consequences are amazing.

Talk about unintended consequences with a turbocharger.

A common ancestor going back to the early 1800s enabled Sacramento police to capture the Golden State killer. Unsolved for 40 years, it took a week for them to find him after a DNA sample was sent to a DNA database.

Thirty and 40-year cold cases are now being solved on a weekly basis. Long ago kidnapped children are being reunited with parents after decades of separation.

California just froze all executions. That’s because DNA evidence showed that approximately 30% of all capital case convictions were of innocent men. That was enough for me to change my own view on the death penalty. The error rate was just too high. Dozens of men around the country have been freed after new DNA evidence surfaced, some after serving 30 years or more in prison.

23 and Me had some medical advice for me as well. They strongly recommended that I get tested for diabetes and high blood pressure as these maladies are rife among my ancestors. They even name the specific guilty gene and haploid group.

This explains why major technology companies, like Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL), are pouring billions of dollars into genetic research.

I have long had a personal connection with DNA research. I worked on the team that sequenced the first ever string of DNA at UCLA in 1974. It was groundbreaking work. We obtained our raw DNA from Dr. James Watson of Harvard who, along with Francis Crick, was the first to discover its three-dimensional structure. As for my UCLA professor, Dr. Winston Salser, he went on to found Amgen (AMGN) in 1980 and became a billionaire.

The developments that are taking place today then seemed to us like science fiction that was hundreds of years into the future. To see the paper created by this work please click here.
 
As research into DNA advances, it is about to pervade every aspect of our lives. Do you have a high probability of getting a disease that costs a million dollars to cure and is counting on getting health insurance? Think again. That may well bring forward single-payer national healthcare for the US, as only the government could absorb that kind of liability.

And if you can only hang on a few years, you might live forever. That’s when DNA-based monoclonal antibodies and gene editing are about to cure all major human diseases. DNA is about to become central to your physical health and your financial health as well.

To learn more about 23 and Me please visit their website here.

Maybe the next time I visit the Versaille Palace outside of Paris, I should ask for a set of keys now that I’m a relative? Unfortunately, it’s much more likely that I’ll get the keys to my Neanderthal ancestor’s cave.

 

 

 

March 5, 2019

Global Market Comments
March 5, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(THE BIPOLAR ECONOMY),
(AAPL), (INTC), (ORCL), (CAT), (IBM),
(TESTIMONIAL)

March 4, 2019

Global Market Comments
March 4, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(THE MARKET FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or THE RECESSION HAS BEGUN),
(SPY), (TLT), (GLD), (AAPL)

March 1, 2019

Global Market Comments
March 1, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(OH, HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN),
(BRK/A), (AXP), (AAPL), (BAC), (KO), (WFC), (KHT),
(AMGEN’S BIG WIN), (AMGN), (SNY), (REGN)

Biotech and Health Care Stocks to Buy at the Bottom

One has to be truly impressed with the selloff in biotech and health care stocks over the past year.

Since May, there were signs that life was returning to this beleaguered sector. Then Mylan decided to raise the prices of it's EpiPen by 400% and it was back to the penalty box.

Let?s gouge poor small children who may die horrible deaths if they can?t afford our product. That sounds like a great marketing and PR strategy. NOT!

Once the top performing sectors of 2015, they went from heroes to goats so fast, it made your head spin.

What I called ?The ATM Effect? kicked in big time.

That?s when frightened investors run for the sidelines and sell their best stocks to raise cash. After all, no one wants to sell other stocks for a loss and admit defeat, at least in front of their clients.

It?s not that the companies themselves were without blood on their hands. Valuations were getting, to use the polite term, ?stretched? after a torrid five-year run.

Gilead Sciences (GILD) soaring from $18 to $125?

Celgene (CELG) rocketing from $20 to $142?

It has been a performance for the ages.

If a financial advisor wasn?t in health care, chances are that he is driving for Uber in a bad neighborhood by now.

Then there was The Tweet That Ate Wall Street.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made clear in a broadcast on September 21, 2015 that the health care industry would be target number one in her new administration.

Her move was triggered by an overnight 5000% price hike for a specialty HIV drug by a minor player in the industry.

Among the reforms she would implement are:

1) Give the government power to negotiate drug purchases with the industry collectively.
2) Allow Medicare to import drugs from abroad to encourage price competition (which I already do with my annual trips to Switzerland).
3) Ban drug companies from using government grants to pay for sales and advertising.
4) Set an out of pocket limit for drugs bought through Obamacare at $250 a month, thus ending customers? blank checks.
5) Set a 20% of revenue minimum which companies must spend on research and development.

She certainly got our attention.

Competition in the drug industry? Yikes! Not what the shareholders had in mind.

Raise your hand if you think Americans aren?t paying enough for their prescription drugs.

Yes, I thought so.

Drug company CEOs aren?t helping their case by flying to press conferences to complain about the proposals in brand new $65 million Cessna G-5?s.

And that Mylan CEO, Heather Bresch? She took home $18 million last year, and she?s just a kid.

Here?s the key issue for health care and biotech for investors. It all about politics.

Even if Hillary does get elected, the government is likely to remain gridlocked for another 4-8 years. The Democrats will almost certainly retake the Senate in 2016, thanks to a highly favorable calendar, and keep it for at least two years.

But the heavily gerrymandered House is another story.

With the current districting map, the Democrats would have to win 57% of the national vote for them to regain a majority in both houses.

That is a feat even Barack Obama could not pull off in 2008, when a perfect storm in favor of his party blew in.

A Hillary appointed liberal Supreme Court could bring an end to gerrymandering, but that is a multiyear process. Texas hasn?t had a legal districting map since 2000.

Even with Democratic control of congress, Hillary won?t get everything she wants.

Remember, Obamacare passed by one vote only after a year of cantankerous infighting, and then, only when a member changed parties (Pennsylvanian Arlen Spector).

That means few, if any, Clinton proposals will ever make it into law. If they do, they will be severely watered down and subject to the usual horse-trading and quid pro quos.

Beyond what she can accomplish through executive order, her election may be largely symbolic.

Therefore, the biotech and health care stocks are a screaming ?BUY? at these levels, provided you ignore Mylan (MYL), now the poster boy for corporate greed.

It?s a political call I can only make after spending years in the White House and a half century following presidential elections.

It?s easy to understand why these stocks were so popular, and are found brimming to overflowing in client portfolios and personal 401ks and IRAs.

We are just entering a Golden Age for biotech and health care.

Profit growth for many firms is exceeding 20% a year. Hyper accelerating biotechnology is rapidly bringing to market dozens of billion dollar earning drugs that were, until recently, considered in the realm of science fiction.

And we have only just gotten started. Cures for cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, AIDS, and dementia? You can take your pick.

Most biotech and health care stocks have given up all of their 2015 gains. Here is a chance to hoover up the fastest growing companies in the US at 2014 prices.

If you missed biotech and health care the first time around, you?ve just been given a second chance at the brass ring.

Here?s a list of five top quality names to get your feet wet:

Gilead Sciences (GILD) ? Has the world?s top hepatitis cure, which it sells for $80,000 per treatment. For a full report, see the next piece below.

Celgene (CELG) ? A biotech firm that specializes in cancer cures (thalidomide) and inflammatory diseases. It also produces Ritalin for the treatment of ADHD.

Allergan (AGN) ? Has the world?s third largest low cost generic drug business. In addition, it has built a major portfolio of drug therapies through more than two dozen acquisitions over the last decade.

Regeneron (REGN) ? Already has a great anti-inflammatory drug, and is about to market a blockbuster anti cholesterol drug that will substantially reduce heart disease.

HCA Holdings (HCA) ? Is the world?s largest operator of for profit health care facilities in the world.

If you want a lower risk, more diversified play in the area, you can buy the Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV). Please note that a basket of stocks is going to deliver a fraction of the volatility of single stocks.

Therefore, we have to be more aggressive with our positioning to make any money, picking call option strikes that are closer to the money.

Johnson and Johnson (JJ) is the largest holding in the (XLV), with a 12.8% weighting, while Gilead Sciences (GILD) is the fourth, with a 5.1% share. For a list of the largest components of this ETF, please click: https://www.spdrs.com/product/fund.seam?ticker=XLV.

The other classic play in this area is the Biotech iShares ETF (IBB) issued by BlackRock (click their link: https://www.ishares.com/us/products/239699/ishares-nasdaq-biotechnology-etf ).

Their largest holding is Biogen (BIIB), followed by Gilead Sciences (GILD), Celgene (CELG), Amgen (AMGN), and Regeneron Pharmaceutical (REGN).

I?ll be shooting out Trade Alerts on biotech and health care names as soon as I think the coast is clear.

Until then, enjoy the ride!

MYL
HCA
CELG
XLV
IBB
EpiPen

Say You Were A Biotech Investor, Did You?