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Big-Cap Biotech Earnings Calm Investor Nerves (Update)

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The biotech relief rally appears on.

Rally may be too strong a word, but the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index (NBI) is up just under 1% Thursday morning following generally strong (or at least in line) earnings reports from Biogen Idec (BIIB - Get Report), Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN - Get Report) and Celgene (CELG - Get Report). These big-cap biotech bellwethers are helping to ease some of the agita caused by Amgen's (AMGN - Get Report) low-quality earnings report on Tuesday night.

The NBI fell 3% Wednesday following Amgen's poor performance, stoking fears that the biotech sector, riding a wave of all-time high stock prices, may be in for a correction.

Investors were hoping for positive earnings news today to allay those concerns, and for the most part, the big-cap biotechs delivered. Only Celgene shares are down marginally in early trading on weaker-than-expected sales of its multiple myeloma drug Revlimid.

Biogen adjusted earnings in the March quarter rose 43% to $1.97 compared to the year-ago period. Net income rose 39% year-over-year to $469 million. Analysts were expecting adjusted earnings of $1.63 per share.

A one-time tax adjustment benefit of 17 cents per share added gusto to Biogen's first-quarter earnings, but taken away, the company still beat Street expectations.

Revenue for the quarter totaled $1.41 billion, in-line with analyst expectations.

Biogen raised its financial outlook for the year, now expecting adjusted earnings in the range of $7.80-$7.90 per share against current consensus of $7.86 per share. Revenue growth for the year is expected to be approximately 16-18%, the company said.

On a conference call, Biogen said it was "encouraged" by the early interest from doctors and patients in its newly launched multiple sclerosis pill Tecfidera. The company declined to provide any specific metrics about the commercial launch.

Alexion also "beat and raise" for the first quarter, posting adjusted earnings of 65 cents per share, or 4 cents per share better than expectations. Revenue for the March quarter totaled $338.9 million, slightly ahead of the Street's $336.5 million forecast.

Alexion raised 2013 revenue guidance to $1.5 to $1.52 billion, essentially in line with current consensus. The company expects adjusted earnings in the range of $2.87-$2.97 per share versus current consensus of $2.90 per share.

Celgene posted first quarter adjusted earnings of $1.37, two cents per share better than expectations but assisted by tax benefit. Total revenue for the quarter was $1.46 billion, just shy of the $1.47 billion consensus estimate. Sales of Celgene's multiple myeloma drug Revlimid totaled $1.003 billion in the quarter, a touch weaker than expectations of $1.008 billion.

Celgene re-affirmed prior revenue guidance for the year, which may disappoint some investors who hoped for more. The company did raise guidance for adjusted earnings to $5.55-$5.65 per share, although current consensus is already at $5.70 per share.

-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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