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Squeezing the Shorts: Health Care Stocks

HLTH (HLTH) is an online services company that owns a number of health-related companies, most notably a majority interest in WebMD (WBMD)ealth information and tools as well as private portals for insurers and employers for electronic medical records. One of the company's key selling points is lowered medical costs -- and through consumer education and low-cost electronic record-keeping, that's exactly what WebMD delivers.

But HLTH, which currently has a short interest ratio of 36.6, has its detractors as well. For the past year, to the chagrin of many investors, the company has focused on selling some of its primary subsidiaries, including Porex and Emdeon Business Services. But once this divestiture-happy management team has sold off nonkey elements of HLTH's business, the company should have the capital and the intellectual resources to focus on growing share prices once again.

One fund that's on board is the Fidelity Balanced Fund (FBALX), a four-star Morningstar-rated fund that also holds big stakes in Micron Technology (MU) and Verizon (VZ).

The pharmaceutical industry is no stranger to short squeezes; FDA news and drug-licensing deals can swing a pharma stock in the blink of an eye. But not all pharmaceutical plays are worth the added risk of going long against a sea of shorts. That's not the case with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY), a mature biotherapeutics company that has rights to incredible, Nobel Prize-winning intellectual property and alliances with some of the biggest names in big pharma. The company also has a short interest ratio of 30.17.

And with shares down 12% thus far in 2009, short-sellers have been piling into this play, setting the stage for a potentially profitable short squeeze with a number of medical conferences schedules for the rest of the year. Big owners in this stock include the Morgan Stanley Institutional Small Company Growth Fund (MSSGX), which owns shares of interesting small-caps such as Techne (TECH) and Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (PAC).

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