To put it delicately, 2014 has been an interesting and volatile year for biotechnology stocks and the exchange traded funds that hold those shares.
Biotech stocks usually trade at a hefty premium to the broader U.S. market, but earlier this year as the industry’s valuations became noticeably stretched relative to the group’s long-term averages, clarion calls regarding a biotech bubble grew louder.
The biotech boo birds eventually got their validation with the March/April momentum sell-off that sent some biotech ETFs into bear market territory. The First Trust NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index Fund (NYSEArca: FBT) was not immune to that sell-off, tumbling 19.7% from its February peak to its April trough. [Biotech ETFs Bumble Away Year’s Gains]
Like other biotech ETFs, FBT has since reclaimed a significant portion of its losses, surging 17.7% from its April bottom. That is also FBT’s year-to-date gain, 17.7%, and that is enough to have the ETF sitting atop all non-leveraged health care ETFs to this point in 2014, according to Dorsey Wright data.
FBT’s resurgence has been aided by the usual biotech catalysts, including FDA news and mergers and acquisitions rumors. For example, the ETF got a nice lift in June when shares of Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NasdaqGS: VRTX) surged more than 40% after the company said two Phase III trials for its cystic fibrosis treatment showed encouraging results. [Vertex Lifts Biotech ETFs]
At the time, FBT had the largest weight to Vertex among biotech ETFs with a 4.7% weight to the stock. FBT currently allocates 4.3% to Vertex, which does not sound like much, but remember no stock occupies more than a 6.3% weight in the ETF.