Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NuVasive (NUVA) Hitting 2008 Lows

I am starting to get interested in building a larger position here in NuVasive (NUVA) here around mid $31s as the stock knives lower; however the volume is very extreme (half of daily volume traded in first hour) so I am curious what is driving the selling. Yesterday Medtronic (MDT) had a disappointing report but they only compete in the spine area - there is a news report that the feds are investigating off label use of a Medtronic spinal implant - I don't know about this product in relation to NuVasive's product line to know if this is the cause... I'd be curious to hear the analyst community's take on this one.
  • We’ve been inundated with probes of pharma companies over marketing drugs for unapproved uses. Now, the Justice Department has trained its sights on a giant in medical devices.
  • Medtronic’s shares dropped 13% yesterday after the company said the DOJ is investigating off-label use of a Medtronic spinal implant called Infuse that’s meant to help bone growth, the WSJ reports. The implant includes a biologically engineered protein made by Wyeth to coax bone to grow. The device is widely used in surgeries to fuse vertebrae.
  • Infuse is approved by the FDA only for use in the lower, lumbar region. But about three-quarters of 280 side-effect reports about Infuse to the FDA concerned use of the device outside that area. In July, the agency issued a safety alert about complications from the off-label use of Insure in the cervical spine.
  • The DOJ probe comes along with whistleblower lawsuits alleging the company paid doctors to induce their use of its products.
So this could be guilt by association or in this market, a hedge fund liquidating but we've seen NuVasive drop off a cliff the past few sessions ($42 to $32 out of the blue), highlighting once again why owning individual stocks in this market is Russian Roulette. But, technically, as we now approach March 2008 lows, we'd be interested if the stock can hold $32 level which was the nadir earlier this year. Currently it trades just below it; if that doesn't hold the next real support is $26-27 area but the hopes of a bullish double bottom formation would be gone.

Frankly this is the type of action I am seeing all over my watch lists even as the indexes "hold up".... small caps and mid caps are pummeled as institutions only are playing with large cap liquid equities when they are not busy playing the ETFs. Yesterday the Russell was down while the Dow Jones was up nearly 2%... etc.

EDIT 10:40 AM: By the time I wrote this entry the stock is down to mid $30s and the typical volume of an entire day has now been reached (over 600K shares) so we just traded 300K shares in 10 minutes... someone is liquidating - and fast.

[Nov 4: NuVasive in Investors Business Daily]
[Oct 23: NuVasive Earnings]
[Sep 2: Initiating NuVasive Position]
[Jul 25: NuVasive - At What Price Growth? It Seems "Any"]

Long NuVasive in fund; no personal position

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