A change in season presents a good time to look for great stocks to buy. And one of the best places to look is in the biotech industry. Biotech stocks in general are trouncing the S&P 500 index so far in 2017. I expect that trend to continue well into the future.
Which biotech stocks are most appealing? I'd put AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV), Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG), and Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) at the top of the list. Here's why these three big biotech stocks are great ones to buy this fall.
Whether you're looking for growth, income, or value, AbbVie has something to offer. The company has grown earnings by 17% annually over the last five years. Wall Street analysts project AbbVie will increase its earnings by an average annual rate of nearly 14% over the next few years -- a little less than the past but still quite impressive.
AbbVie's growth should be driven both by current products and its pipeline. Sales momentum continues for its top-selling drug, Humira. Cancer drug Imbruvica is the greatest rising star for AbbVie, with sales soaring nearly 44% year over year in the first half of 2017. Market research firm ranks AbbVie's pipeline as the third best in the biopharmaceutical industry, with leading candidates including autoimmune disease drug upadacitinib and cancer drug Rova-T.
Income-seeking investors will love AbbVie's attractive dividend yield of 2.93%. For most of this year, the yield topped 3.5%, but AbbVie's stock has gone up so much the yield has fallen recently. That's not a bad problem to have. In addition, the company should be in good position to increase the dividend in the future.
What about value? Even with the stock gaining close to 40% so far in 2017, AbbVie's shares still trade at just over 13 times expected earnings. Combined with the company's growth prospects and its solid dividend, this valuation makes AbbVie a top pick for both the short term and long term.
If you're a classic rock fan, you probably remember Meat Loaf's hit from the seventies, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." That song is applicable to Celgene. The big biotech isn't a fit for income investors since it doesn't pay a dividend, but Celgene should be appealing to growth investors and even value investors.
Actually, I think Celgene's growth prospects more than make up for its lack of a dividend. Over the last five years, Celgene has increased earnings by nearly 25% annually. The biotech anticipates earnings growth of around 22% over the next few years.
That growth will be fueled in large part by sustained strength for Revlimid, which is projected to become the world's top-selling cancer drug within the next five years. Celgene also has a couple of other rising blockbusters in Pomalyst and Otezla, with cancer drug Abraxane knocking on the $1 billion sales mark. The company's pipeline is exceptionally deep. Celgene thinks it could win regulatory approval for 10 candidates with blockbuster sales potential by 2022.
Celgene stock seems expensive looking in the rearview mirror: Shares trade at 44 times trailing 12-month earnings. But it's a different story looking to the future, with the stock trading at 16 times expected earnings. If you factor in Celgene's terrific growth prospects, the biotech's price-to-earnings-growth (PEG) ratio is only 0.90 -- making Celgene's valuation very attractive for growth-oriented investors.
We could play that old Meat Loaf song again for Gilead Sciences. In Gilead's case, though, the two positives are its dividends and value.
Gilead's dividend currently yields 2.53%. Expect the dividend to only get better over time. The company uses less than 22% of earnings to fund the dividend program. Gilead initiated its first dividend in 2015 and has boosted the payout at least 10% each year since.
It's hard to find a stock on the market with a financial position as strong as Gilead that's as cheap as the biotech is right now. Gilead's shares currently trade at less than 11 times expected earnings. However, there's a reason why the stock is priced at such a low valuation: Gilead's revenue and earnings are falling due to slumping sales of its hepatitis C drugs.
Over the near term, it's not likely that Gilead will see revenue and earnings increases. But the company recently announced its plans to acquire Kite Pharma (NASDAQ:KITE), a deal that will make Gilead a leader in the use of cell therapy in treating cancer. Gilead also has a large cash stockpile that it will likely use to acquire additional assets. With a pipeline ranked No. 4 in the world by EvaluatePharma and the financial resources to fuel future growth, I think Gilead is another big biotech stock that will pay off over the long run.