May 16, 2019

Hedge funds and short sellers dig into health care stocks

Hedge funds and short sellers are raising their bets that lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies will drive down their stock prices and maybe even put them out of business.

The intrigue: Data from S3 Partners provided exclusively to Axios shows bets against biotech and pharmaceutical companies have risen 12% since the beginning of the year to nearly $62 billion of short interest.

  • "Wall Street is underestimating the impact on companies from the opioid litigation," Justin Simon of health-care hedge fund Jasper Capital Management told the Wall Street Journal.

Driving the news: Close to 2,000 lawsuits have been filed accusing big pharma companies of fueling the opioid epidemic. Drugmakers including Mallinckrodt, Allergan, Endo Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson and Teva, and several drug distributors have been named as defendants.

Why you'll hear about this again: Jasper has been betting against Mallinckrodt and other companies named in the lawsuits, WSJ reports, noting that "Some hedge funds have been watching for distress in the sector, citing certain companies' use of leverage or declining profitability."

  • "On Teva's most recent earnings call, Chief Executive Kåre Schultz said, 'As you know, we have a lot of debt, so we don’t have that much money. So I think [opioid plaintiffs will] have to find somebody else if they want big settlements. It won't be with us.'"

Go deeper: Lawsuit says Johnson & Johnson was opioid "kingpin"

Go deeper

The cost of going after Bloomberg

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Here's the growing dilemma for 2020 Democrats vying for a one-on-one showdown with frontrunner Bernie Sanders: Do they have the guts — and the money — to first stop Mike Bloomberg?

Why it matters: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren all must weigh the costs of punching Bloomberg where he looks most vulnerable: stop-and-frisk, charges of sexism, billionaire entitlement. The more zealous the attacks, the greater the risk he turns his campaign ATM against them.

How Trump’s economy stacks up

Source: "Presidents and US Economy", Trump figures through 2019 courtesy of Alan Blinder; Note: Data shows real GDP and Q1 growth in each term is attributed to the previous president; Chart: Axios Visuals

Average economic growth under President Trump has outpaced the growth under Barack Obama, but not all of his recent predecessors.

Why it matters: GDP is the most comprehensive economic scorecard — and something presidents, especially Trump, use as an example of success. And it's especially relevant since Trump is running for re-election on his economic record.

Coronavirus cases rise as 14 American evacuees infected

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

14 Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the novel coronavirus before being flown in a "specialist containment" on a plane repatriating U.S. citizens back home, the U.S. government said early Monday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 1,770 people and infected almost 70,000 others. Most cases and all but five of the deaths have occurred in mainland China. Taiwan confirmed its first death on Sunday, per multiple reports, in a 61-year-old man with underlying health conditions. Health officials were investigating how he became ill.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health