(Bloomberg) — The vaccine makers are proving that the vaccine trade may be finally over.
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Moderna Inc. and BioNTech SE, two major providers of the Covid-19 inoculations that rallied amid the pandemic, have each tumbled roughly 40% since the start of January, leaving them poised for the biggest monthly drops ever. Novavax Inc. fell as much as 22% on Monday alone and is down over 70% since early September. CureVac NV has tumbled, too.
Even pharmaceutical stalwarts have sold off with Johnson & Johnson down 6.3% in a 10-day slide. The health-care giant is set to report earnings on Tuesday.
Pfizer Inc., which along with its BioNTech-partnered vaccine makes its own Covid pill, has dropped roughly 13% this month. With Omicron at peak levels and infections starting to fade, it is “unclear what the near-term role for its anti-viral will be should the variant pose as more manageable,” said Oppenheimer strategist Jared Holz.
The drop has been fueled by a stark shift into value stocks and away from formerly hot vaccine and biotech companies, particularly among individual investors looking for havens from the stock market’s drop.
Day traders “have been selling their favorite biotech names and vaccine plays,” said Giacomo Pierantoni, a data analyst with Vanda Securities who tracks retail trading trends.
The pandemic-era gains for the vaccine makers have fallen by the wayside as retail investors flee and the broader stock market enters correction territory. The companies have been particularly affected by conflicting early studies about the impact of booster shots on the omicron variant, a stymied federal vaccine mandate in the U.S., and the market rotation to safe havens amid widespread expectations that the Federal Reserve is poised to start raising interest rates.
Geoff Meacham, an analyst at Bank of America Corp., said Moderna fans who helped dub it the “Tesla of biotech” made a critical miscalculation of the drug approval process and expected it to be able to speed through its other pipeline candidates as fast as it did during the emergency authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine.
“There was a misunderstanding,” he said in an interview. “Drug development is not easy.”
But with many general investors pulling back from Moderna, valuations have now returned to a more fundamental level, reflecting a better risk-to-reward ratio on its pipeline of potential treatments outside of Covid-19, Meacham said. As a result, he upgraded the stock to neutral from underperform on Friday.
He has set his price target at $180, up from a trading range of around $157 Monday, yet well below the the average price target of $272.
Runner-up vaccine makers like CureVac — whose share price has been cut in half this year — or Novavax are in a more precarious position than bigger rivals. While Moderna and BioNTech have seen their coffers boosted from shot sales, the smaller companies are at “a much bigger disadvantage as they don’t have as much money to spare” Meacham said.
(Updates with closing prices.)
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