A fair amount of uncertainty continues to surround the healthcare sector as Congress debates how it can improve the existing system in the U.S., but that has not prevented a number of stocks in the space from storming up the charts. Here are four healthcare stocks on fire right now.

IN PICTURES: How To Make Your First $1 Million

Portfolio Cure-Alls
Year to date, shares of the pharmaceutical giant Novartis (NYSE: NVS) are only up 7%, but the stock has surged 59.7% since hitting a 52-week low in early March. The Switzerland-based company recently reported a solid third quarter in which operating income rose 12.8% on a 3.2% increase in net sales. The company maintains that it is on pace for record sales and earnings in 2009.

Novartis continues to benefit from its core pharmaceutical business segment, which has chalked up a score of new approvals in 2009 including its anti-cancer therapy, Afinitor. Looking forward, the company should have another strong quarter in Q4 with contributions from its H1N1 flu vaccine, which began being shipped at the end of September. Dividend investors may also find this stock attractive with its 3.2% dividend yield.

The small cap biotech Exelixis (Nasdaq: EXEL) has been on quite a run of its own. The stock has climbed more than 50% so far this year and has been gaining momentum from improving revenue streams from its collaborative agreements with Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY). Exelixis focuses on developing cancer therapies.

Slicing Up The Competition
Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG) has been a leader of innovation in the medical device industry since its da Vinci Surgical System was introduced in 1999. Today the company continues to find new growth in the field of robotic-assisted surgery and has seen its stock price move up 120% so far in 2009.

Intuitive Surgical is coming off of a Q3 in which EPS improved 14.2% on an 18.7% gain in revenue when compared to the company's year-ago quarter. ISRG saw revenue growth in each of its three business segments and was helped in particular by sales of its new da Vinci Si model surgical system. Intuitive Surgical's service revenue also moved higher as the company continues to grow its client base.

After resolving investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Florida Attorney General's Office earlier this year, shareholders of managed-care provider WellCare Health Plans (NYSE: WCG) have seen their investment take off. Year to date, the stock has gained 165%. Going into 2010, the company will have to overcome declining membership in its Medicare segment with gains from its Medicaid business and premiums.

Bottom Line
Healthcare stocks have not been precluded from participating in the recent rallies of the broader equity markets. These four stocks in particular have brushed aside any potential adversity that could arise from future legislation for the sector. Although each of these stocks is worthy of consideration, investors looking to add healthcare exposure to their portfolios should conduct their own due diligence before pulling the trigger. (Learn more about how to check up on the health of healthcare stocks in Investing In The Healthcare Sector.)

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

Related Articles
  1. Investing News

    Bank Stocks: Time to Buy or Avoid? (WFC, JPM, C)

    Bank stocks have been pounded. Is this the right time to buy or should they be avoided?
  2. Stock Analysis

    Why the Bullish Are Turning Bearish

    Banks are reducing their targets for the S&P 500 for 2016. Here's why.
  3. Stock Analysis

    How to Find Quality Stocks Amid the Wreckage

    Finding companies with good earnings and hitting on all cylinders in this environment, although possible, is not easy.
  4. Investing News

    What You Can Learn from Carl Icahn's Mistakes

    Carl Icahn has been a stellar performer in the investment world for decades, but following his lead these days could be dangerous.
  5. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Altria's Return on Equity (ROE) (MO)

    Learn about Altria Group's return on equity (ROE) and analyze net profit margin, asset turnover and financial leverage to determine what is causing its high ROE.
  6. Investing News

    Icahn's Bet on Cheniere Energy: Should You Follow?

    Investing legend Carl Icahn continues to lose money on Cheniere Energy, but he's increasing his stake. Should you follow his lead?
  7. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Google's Return on Equity (ROE) (GOOGL)

    Learn about Alphabet's return on equity. How has its ROE changed over time, how does it compare to its peers and what factors are driving ROE for the company?
  8. Investing News

    Is Buffett's Bet on Oil Right for You? (XOM, PSX)

    Oil stocks are getting trounced, but Warren Buffett still likes one of them. Should you follow the leader?
  9. Investing News

    Chipotle Served with Criminal Probe

    Chipotle's beat muted expectations and got a clear bill from the CDC, but it now appears that an investigation into its E.coli breakout has expanded.
  10. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Sprint Corp's Return on Equity (ROE) (S)

    Learn about Sprint's return on equity. Find out why its ROE is negative and how asset turnover and financial leverage impact ROE relative to Sprint's peers.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What types of capital are not considered share capital?

    The money a business uses to fund operations or growth is called capital, and there are a number of capital sources available. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between issued share capital and subscribed share capital?

    The difference between subscribed share capital and issued share capital is the former relates to the amount of stock for ... Read Full Answer >>
COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center