In a stock market like this, finding upward price momentum is a real challenge. Normally, I’m not a big fan of the buy-high/try-to-sell-higher type of investment strategy, but I’ve learned over the years that, to be successful in any business venture, you have to do what works. And what works changes with the times. In the equity speculation business, going with the changing times is a must, and a specific investment strategy doesn’t always fit the circumstances.
One could argue that some momentum trading might be an attractive trading strategy, particularly in this range-bound market. If investor sentiment were to improve only slightly (which might happen as third-quarter earnings season begins), stocks that have already done well will have a higher likelihood of continuing to do well, all things being equal.
An equity speculator might want to make a list of all the stocks making new 52-week highs right now. From this list, I’m certain one could find some good momentum trades. This investment strategy isn’t without its risks and we all know how quickly sentiment can change—on a dime. But, in spite of what the media is saying about the stock market, there have been some real powerhouse wealth creators this year.
Consider, for example, the biotechnology company Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ/ALXN). This stock has been going up steadily and it just hit a new 52-week high, a new all-time record price high. Its track record of wealth creation has been multi-year. This stock has been going up steadily since 2003.
I always like the biotechnology sector for risk-capital plays. I think any speculative equity portfolio should have one or two of these kinds of businesses. The great thing about biotech is that, for the most part, the stocks trade on company-specific news. An important drug discovery or FDA approval will always send a share price higher, no matter how bad the economy is or sentiment is in the broader stock market.
Alexion Pharmaceuticals only has one approved drug, called “Soliris.” That’s a pretty good accomplishment for a company the share price of which is up 21 times since 2003 and has tripled since 2009. Soliris treats a severe form of anemia that affects only a small part of the general population. The drug was approved in the U.S.(2007), the European Union (2007), and Japan (2010). It is the only drug specifically indicated for the treatment of patients with what is known as “paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria,” which is a rare, debilitating and life-threatening blood disease.
The company’s 2011 second-quarter total revenues grew to $185.7 million, compared to $125.8 million in the same quarter last year. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) net income was $34.7 million, or $0.18 per share, compared to GAAP net income of $21.8 million, or $0.12 per share, generated in the second quarter of 2010. The company finished the second quarter of 2011 with $368 million in cash and marketable securities and management once again increased its revenue and earnings guidance for all of 2011.
The stock market’s trading action over the last several months has proven that overall sentiment is fragile and that anything can happen to equities based on huge risks in the global landscape. Although not plentiful, there is growth and momentum in the marketplace. The hard part is always trying to find it, and then buying it at the right price.