Editors' pick: Originally published March 31.
Pinch yourself. Check your pulse. Fog a mirror. You're alive! Congratulations, you just survived the worst quarterly performance for biotech stocks since 2002.
The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index, or NBI, fell 23% in the first quarter which closed Thursday. The last time the biotech index underperformed to this degree on a quarterly basis was in June 2002 when it lost 34%, according to data compiled by Evercore ISI. [The largest, related ETFs -- iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology (IBB - Get Report) and SPDR S&P Biotech (XBI - Get Report) -- lost 23% and 27% in the first quarter, respectively.]
During the first and third quarters of 2001, the NBI lost 29% and 27%, respectively.
Just looking at the first quarter, the biotech and drug stocks performed worse than any other industry tracked in the S&P 1500.
Here's how the NBI's (under)performance looks graphically, courtesy of Evercore ISI.
There are some signs the biotech gloom is lifting. The NBI has been flat for the past six weeks. The flow of investor dollars out of biotech, largely responsible for triggering the selloff last summer, has slowed. In recent weeks, investor funds have even started to move back into biotech stocks. Politicians are still screaming about outrageously high drug prices and Valeant Pharmaceuticals remains a mess, but each is having less of an impact on market volatility.
The euphoria that propelled the biotech sector to new heights over the past three years -- and triggered all the debate about a bubble -- hasn't shown signs of returning. The flow of initial public offerings remains anemic. The pace of mergers and acquisitions remains slow. But for now, stability works.
"Flat is the new up," said RBC Capital biotech analyst Michael Yee.
Some notable, individual biotech stock performance numbers for the first quarter:
Celator Pharmaceuticals (CPXX) is the top performer, up 507%.