Health stocks were upbeat on Friday amid little news and ahead of next week's earnings kickoff. Pharma companies Merck ( MRK) and Schering-Plough ( SGP), recently in the spotlight for negative news surrounding cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin, enjoyed some investor positivism on Friday. A day after announcing its cost-cutting response to the drug turmoil, Schering shares added 71 cents, or 4.6%, to $16.09. Merck shares rose $1.60, or 4.2%, to $39.96. Among medical-device stocks: Boston Scientific's ( BSX) shares added 4% to $14.07, St. Jude Medical ( STJ) tacked on 2.8% to $45.29, and Medtronic ( MDT) gained 1.3% to $49.64. Meanwhile, biotech stocks Celgene ( CELG), Cephalon ( CEPH) and Biogen Idec ( BIIB) all gained more than 1.5% on Friday, helping boost the Nasdaq and Amex biotechnology indices to grow 1.2% and 1.8%, respectively. Lazard analyst Matthew Osborne said in a note to investors Friday that he expects biotech Genzyme ( GENZ) to deliver earnings growth of 17% in the next three years. Osborne, who has a buy rating and a $90 price target for Genzyme, is also optimistic about midstage data on Genzyme's Clolar for pediatric leukemia and also its candidate for Gaucher disease, due out midyear. Genzyme shares added $1.36, or 1.8%, to $75.94. Elsewhere, Draxis Health ( DRAX) said Friday that it will be acquired by Indian drug company Jubilant Organosys for $255 million, or $6 a share. The price is a 22.5% premium over Draxis' price at market close on Thursday. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter. Shares of the Canadian based company rose $1, or 20.4%, to $5.90 on Friday. Also, Indevus Pharmaceuticals ( IDEV) said Thursday post close that it licensed its prostate cancer implant Vantas to Orion Corp. for a potential price of $21 million. Indevus will receive $7 million upfront and up to $14 million more tied to approvals and sales milestones. Its shares rose 8 cents, or 1.7%, to $4.69 on Friday.
Stocks soar as the gross domestic product rises at an annualized rate of 3.5% in the third quarter and continuing jobless claims fall. Gregg Greenberg recaps the action in The Real Story video (above).