After being beaten down during the first three months of the year, biotech stocks made a remarkable rebound over the past few days. Though the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (NASDAQ:IBB) is still down 17% in the year-to-date frame, it posted an increase of 5.9% on Wednesday, witnessing the best percentage gain since March 12, 2009. In fact, the 7.9% rise in IBB over the past one-month period also propelled healthcare mutual funds, which gained 2.9% during the same period. Mutual funds from this category may be profitable for investors, who are looking to gain from this encouraging trend.
Reasons for the Recent Surge
Strong gains of 5% and 3.5% respectively in Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Allergan plc (NYSE:AGN) played an important role in lifting biotech stocks on Wednesday. The increase was prompted when the companies mutually called off their merger after tougher tax inversion rules were imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service.
Leaving the deal behind, Allergan CEO Brent Saunders said that the company, “could act immediately if” it gets “the right opportunity with the right growth profile and the right strategic logic.” Meanwhile, it is now speculated that names of other UK-based firms like GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK) are on Pfizer’s radar.
Moreover, a surge of nearly 17% in shares of Edwards Lifesciences Corp. (NYSE:EW) gave a boost to this sector. According to the company, data from the trial revealed that a procedure which uses its SAPIEN 3 valve shows better results than open heart procedures for certain patients.
In spite of the recent surge, some of the concerns that affected the performance of biotech stocks at the start of 2016 may continue to impact the sector in the near future. Calls for reducing the prices of several drugs had played an important role in dragging down the sector. Hillary Clinton’s comments on the prohibitive pricing of certain medications drew much attention last year, weighing down on the sector’s stocks. Moreover, the U.S. Treasury Department’s adaptation of new rules to contain inversion-related deals may lower the volume of overseas merger and acquisition deals in the near term.
Moreover, mixed earnings results during the fourth quarter affected the sector to quite an extent. Also, continued decline in the first-quarter earnings forecast is likely to hurt the sector’s performance in the days ahead. First-quarter earnings from the healthcare sector are anticipated to grow only 0.6% from the year-ago level compared with 9.3% growth witnessed in the previous quarter. Moreover, the year-on-year revenue growth rate is projected to decline to 8.8%, lower than the fourth quarter’s growth pace of 9.7%.
However, an innovative product pipeline, product approvals and impressive performances by key products may act as growth catalysts and help the sector to overcome the above-mentioned concerns. Moreover, favorable valuation can make smaller companies within the sector attractive bets for acquisition. Separately, positive results from clinical trials also lift the sector’s stocks. They are difficult to predict, but come as welcome surprises for investors.
3 Healthcare Funds Picks
Given this strong recovery, we have highlighted three healthcare mutual funds that either have a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or #2 (Buy). We expect these funds to outperform their peers in the future. Remember, the goal of the Zacks Mutual Fund Rank is to guide investors to identify potential winners and losers. Unlike most of the fund-rating systems, the Zacks Mutual Fund Rank is not just focused on past performance, but also on the likely future success of the fund.
These funds have encouraging one-month and three-year annualized returns. The minimum initial investment is within $5000. Also, these funds have a low expense ratio and no sales load.
Delaware Healthcare Fund I (MUTF:DLHIX) invests a large chunk of its assets in equity securities of companies that are engaged in operations such as production, development and of products and services related to healthcare sector. DLHIX is a non-diversified fund.
Along with a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank #1, DLHIX has one-month and three-year annualized returns of 5.9% and 16.8%, respectively. Annual expense ratio of 1.11% is lower than the category average of 1.35%.
Fidelity Select Biotechnology Portfolio (MUTF:FBIOX) seeks growth of capital. FBIOX invests the lion’s share of its assets in companies primarily involved in the research, development, manufacture, and distribution of various biotechnological products. The fund invests in securities of companies throughout the globe.
Along with a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank #2, FBIOX has one-month and three-year annualized returns of 5.1% and 16.8%, respectively. Annual expense ratio of 0.72% is lower than the category average of 1.35%.
Live Oak Health Sciences Fund (MUTF:LOGSX) invests the majority of its assets in common stocks of healthcare companies or those related to medicine and life sciences. Though LOGSX primarily focuses on acquiring domestic securities, it may allocate a small portion of its assets in securities of foreign firms and ADRs.
Along with a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank #2, LOGSX has one-month and three-year annualized returns of 3.9% and 15.9%, respectively. Annual expense ratio of 1.08% is lower than the category average of 1.35%.
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