The S&P 500 rose to another record high on Friday, and at least one strategist believes we’re at the start of a new bull market.
Writing from LPL Financial, chief market strategist Ryan Detrick noted several market-historical points that indicate sustained gains are in the offing. Key among his points are the first quarter returns and the breadth of the current stock rally.
On returns, Detrick highlights that the S&P 500 gained nearly 6% in Q1 – and that the 6% level has been an accurate indicator for near-term trends.
“Since 1950, when the S&P 500 was up between 5% and 10% in the first quarter, the rest of the year gained another 12.4% on average and was higher 86.7% of the time," the strategist noted.
The breadth of the gains may be a more important point, however. Detrick tells us that the current rally is attracting participation from a range of different market sectors – stocks are up nearly across the board, with 95% of the S&P 500 components pushing above their 200 day moving average in recent weeks. Detrick shows that this pattern was prevalent in December 2003 and September 2009 – and that those two months marked the start of years-long bull runs.
So the key now, to thriving in the coming environment, is to find stocks that are primed for gains. Using the TipRanks database, we’ve found two stocks that fit a profile: they boast a Strong Buy analyst consensus rating, trading prices around $10 per share, and best of all, they could bring massive growth prospects to the table. We’re talking about triple-digit upside potential here.
F-star Therapeutics (FSTX)
First up is F-star Therapeutics, a clinical stage biopharma company with a focus on immune-oncology. The company’s pipeline features tetravalent mAb2 bispecific antibodies, a proprietary technology which F-star believes will meet the challenges of immune-oncology therapies. According to the company, the antibodies are ‘designed to address multiple immune evasion pathways,’ thereby enhancing their effect over currently available therapies.
F-star has a development pipeline featuring both proprietary and partnership programs. FS118, the most advanced drug candidate, has completed a Phase 1 clinical trial, which showed positive results, with signs of clinical activity related to its novel mechanism of action. A proof-of-concept trial is now underway, with patients suffering from PD-1 resistant head and neck cancers. In addition, the European Patent Office in January of this year granted a patent on the FS118 molecule, with an expiry date in 2037.
The next most advanced program, FS222, is described as a ‘potentially best-in-class bispecific antibody targeting CD137 and PD-L1.’ The drug candidate is starting a Phase 1 trial, with the first patient dosed this past January. The trial will evaluate safety, tolerability, and early signs of efficacy. The patient base will be adults, with a diagnosis of advanced malignancies.
This past November, F-star went public on the NASDAQ through a SPAC merger. The merger was completed, and the FSTX ticker started trading, on November 23; since then, the stock has gained an impressive 151%.
Describing the company as "a potential north star of bispecific antibody engineering," Oppenheimer’s 5-star analyst Hartaj Singh believes that there is plenty of upside left for FSTX.
“We believe FSTX screens well among various bispecific antibody (BsAbs) platforms evolving rapidly in the past two years (our white paper), given the company platform's ability to leverage the three key features of BsAbs: conditionality/ crosslinking/clustering through its molecules' Fc-gamma receptor (FcγR) independent tetravalent binding and generate uncorrelated high-value oncology assets," Singh opined.
The analyst, added, "In our opinion, FSTX's story has checked the boxes for: (1) a biomarker-driven targeted oncology approach identifying a patient population subset that allows accelerated approval; (2) enhanced risk/benefit profile with low immunogenicity/high-affinity target engagement/no hook effect/etc.; (3) unveiling novel target synergy unattainable by mAbs combination; and (4) experienced/execution-focused management."
In line with his bullish view, Sing rates FSTX an Outperform (i.e. Buy), and sets a $30 price target. His target implies a 200% one-year upside potential. (To watch Singh’s track record, click here)
Singh is no outlier on this one. The four most recent reviews on F-star are to "buy," making the analyst consensus rating a Strong Buy. The shares are trading for $9.98, and their $33.5 average price target suggests a 235% upside for the year ahead. (See FSTX stock analysis on TipRanks)
Veru, the next company we’re looking at, is another biopharma company with an oncology focus. The company is working on new medical treatments for prostate and breast cancer, two malignancies that have a high profile.
Veru’s lead pipeline candidate, VERU-111, is under investigation as a treatment for both prostate cancer and breast cancer, and is even undergoing testing as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
The drug candidate has started a Phase 2 clinical trial in the treatment of metastatic castration and androgen receptor targeting agent resistant prostate cancer. The trial is fully enrolled and ongoing, and no severe adverse effects have been reported. Efficacy results include PSA declines along with objective, lasting tumor responses.
The second application of VERU-111 is in the treatment of metastatic triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), and aggressive form of the disease that makes up some 15% of all breast cancer cases. TNBC patients could be candidates for treatment with VERU-111, and preclinical studies have shown that the drug candidate can significantly inhibit the proliferation, migration, metastases, and invasion of TNBC tumor cells that have developed resistance to taxane treatment. Veru will be meeting with the FDA during 1H21 to discuss trial designs for a Phase 2b clinical study of this medical avenue, to be commenced in 2H21.
VERU-111 has also completed an expedited Phase 2 clinical study of its efficacy for treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and at high risk for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). The FDA has agreed to advance the study to a Phase 3 trial, to confirm the risk/benefit analysis. Clinical results are expected to start coming in during 4Q21.
Another drug the company had been developing for the treatment of breast cancer is enobosarm, a selective androgen receptor agonist, which could potentially treat AR+/HR+ breast cancers resistant to current endocrine therapy. The company plans to start a Phase 3 study for enobosarm in coming months, with data expected in 2H23.
In addition, the company has submitted its NDA for tadalafil, a new drug for the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms due to benign prostatic hyperplasia. The PDUFA date is expected in December 2021, and if approved, Veru will market the drug through third-party telemedicine partners.
The company also has an FDA-approved product, FC2, a female, internal condom for the prevention of unintended pregnancies as well as disease prevention. During the fourth quarter, the company saw a 50% growth in prescription sales of FC2, with revenues climbing to $9.1 million from $6.1 million in 4Q20.
The multi-applications have attracted attention from Jeffries analyst Chris Howerton, who rates VERU shares a Buy along with a $19 price target. This figure suggests 104% upside potential from the current share price of $9.32. (To watch Howerton’s track record, click here)
“We like lead oncology programs, '111 for prostate cancer and enobasarm for breast cancer, which will enter Ph3 imminently, positive results from which could unlock cumulative, peak, unadjusted sales of >$3B. After recent strategy shift, non-core/legacy assets are expected to be divested, which could provide NT, non-dilutive capital," Howerton noted.
The analyst continued, "We view other, non-core pipeline programs and business units, such as their female condom (FC2), as call options to our fundamental valuation. Historically, Veru was built as a prostate-focused company, w/ a supportive sexual health business to 'pay the bills.' As a result, there are idiosyncratic features of their pipeline that could provide incremental, near-to-medium term upside, but we do not see as material to long-term valuation."
The rest of Wall Street echoes Howerton’s bullish play, as TipRanks analytics exhibit VERU as a Strong Buy. Out of 5 analysts tracked in the last 3 months, all 5 are bullish on the stock. With a return potential of ~154%, the stock’s consensus price target stands at $23.60. (See VERU stock analysis on TipRanks)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.