Blue chip biotechs have been stuck in the mud since the bear market ended, as I
pointed out Monday
. The small- and mid-cap biotech universe, however, continues to offer speculative opportunities for aggressive traders and investors. Just be careful how you approach these volatile issues, because bad timing or misplaced sentiment can do major damage to your bottom line.
There are a number of equally valid approaches to biotech speculation.
's resident biotech guru Adam Feuerstein offers a comprehensive strategy that focuses on key drug applications with the greatest growth potential and the best prospects for approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Of course, there will be few misfires in this approach, but it can also make you a ton of money.
I prefer a different methodology, because I'm a total coward when playing these issues and am not seeking exposure to the ultimate prize -- i.e., an approved drug that can be wrapped, marketed, sold in a dozen pill shapes and capsules. Instead, I choose to play the speculator, rather than the speculation. That is, I profit exclusively from the chatter, table pounding and newsletter endorsements that these idea-rich, cash-poor stocks attract on a daily basis.
The timing strategy of this technically oriented approach is simple, yet powerful -- play the stocks into key meeting or research dates, but jump back to the sidelines before market-moving data or decisions hit the newswires. This requires familiarity with the development schedules of the companies you're trading, as well as their key milestone dates.
Even so, you're not going to avoid news exposure 100% of the time because of the FDA's fickle nature. The agency has released preliminary findings ahead of meeting dates, and drug trial results that are rushed to public view because they're much better or much worse than expectations. The good news is that these shocks should average out over time, allowing the underlying strategy to work its magic.