How the Supreme Court Health Care Decision Will Impact Stocks


Call me crazy, but it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court and the Washington press corp have adopted their own version of Don't Ask, Don't Tell as it applies to the release schedule for pending court decisions. I'm not begrudging the justices to work more quickly, it just seems as if nobody asked and nobody told that 10am today wasn't going to be D-day (D as in decision). Unless, of course, you think the Court - at the very last minute - just needed a little more time to finish up its work, then you could forgive this morning of wasted time and unneeded angst that had protesters, press, and pundits aflutter, and financial markets on edge.

For sector pros like Les Funtleyder, a fund manager at Poliwogg and author of Healthcare Investing: Profiting from the New World of Pharma, Biotech, and Health Care Services, the ruling on the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare has always been a trading event.

"The way we're playing it is, we're looking for overreactions on the news and so we'll either buy in or go short," he says, pointing out that "whether this law gets upheld or not, the problems that have gotten us to need health care reform in the first place are still with us."

Two particularly vulnerable areas within the sector, he says, are hospitals and medical device companies, but he's the first to admit that many big companies are facing a win-win situation, in that they'd benefit from more insured patients as much as they would from less regulation. He also says the Healthcare sector (XLV) continues to become more and more economically sensitive, which is a departure from its historic roots as being a stalwart of the non-cyclical stable of defensive companies.

"Healthcare hasn't performed as well as you'd think in a weak market," Funtleyder says "and that's because of the Supreme Court overhang."

An overhang that now has only 3 days left before the long-awaited ruling truly comes out on Thursday.

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