(Health care winners story updated with HMS Holdings, closing prices and trading)
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Hospital stocks were among the biggest gainers in 2009 as health reform came into focus. On Monday morning -- with that more than year-long focus finding the light of legislative day, hospital stocks were again popping. How much is there really to pop, though, in stocks already trading near 52-week highs as a result of the 2009 run-up?
In fact, a good question for investors to separate the health care reform noise from the facts is that the entire health care sector was trading throughout 2009 based on the argument that health care reform would become a reality in 2010.
Take Tenet Healthcare (THC). Tenet was the No. 1-performing stock in the S&P 500 last year.Healthcare analysts had indicated as 2009 drew to a close that the question with regards to the hospital stocks was if they had become frothy, or if there was still room to grow in 2010. The expectation at that point, of course -- pre-Scott Brown -- was that health-care reform would pass, for sure. Now that health care reform looks to be a done deal, some analysts are out early on Monday pushing hospital stocks up again. JPMorgan Chase put out a note arguing that while managed-care stocks are expected to be hit the hardest as a result of reform, the hospital stocks and Medicaid coverage providers will be winners. Still, in the case of hospital stocks, a boost in coverage won't begin to result in hospital increased inflows until 2014. JPMorgan referred to these hospital stocks, including Tenet, as "clear, eventual" winners, meaning the benefits won't arrive until 2010. Given that these hospital stocks are already at or near 52-week highs, should eventual gains be the trigger for another rally now?
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