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Tickers in this Article: SHF, OPTR, QCOR, PODD, PCRX, ONXX, MWIV
So far today, the Nasdaq has increased 0.1%, the S&P 500 has been relatively flat and the Dow is trading up 0.1%. The healthcare sector is the category of stocks relating to medical and healthcare goods or services. This sector includes hospital management firms, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), biotechnology and a variety of medical products. Stocks in the healthcare sector are often considered to be defensive because the products and services are essential. Even during economic downturns, people will still require medical aid and medicine to overcome illness. Having a consistent demand for goods and services makes this sector less sensitive to business cycle fluctuations.

The biggest movers in the Healthcare sector (XLV) (+0.4%) are:
CompanyMarket CapPercentage Change
Schiff Nutrition International (NYSE:SHF)$612.2 million+8.9%
Optimer Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:OPTR)$737.6 million-7.5%
Questcor Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:QCOR)$2.99 billion+4.1%
Insulet (Nasdaq:PODD)$1.06 billion-3.5%
Pacira Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:PCRX)$565.4 million-2.6%
Onyx Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:ONXX)$5.29 billion+2.3%
MWI Veterinary Supply (Nasdaq:MWIV)$1.39 billion-2.1%
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Schiff Nutrition International (NYSE:SHF) has risen 8.9% and is currently trading at $22.75 per share. This morning, the company is trading a volume of 232,103 shares. Volume is used to evaluate how meaningful the price movement of a stock is. It is important for an investor to estimate the value of any potential or existing investment; valuation ratios make this easier. The P/E ratio has been used for ages by analysts and still remains one of the most relevant pieces of stock valuation. SHF has a P/E ratio of 44.5. From the investor's perspective, a stock with a lower ratio is relatively cheaper than a stock with a higher ratio. SEE: Investment Valuation Ratios: Price/Earnings Ratio

After a decline of 7.5%, Optimer Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:OPTR) has hit a share price of $14.35. At 702,158 shares, the company's volume so far today is above yesterday's volume of 340,160 shares. A stock's volume conveys how excited investors are about it. Investment valuation ratios can be very useful in determining the value of a stock, but it is very important to keep in mind that while some financial ratios have general rules (or a broad application), in most instances it is a prudent practice to look at a company's historical performance and use peer company/industry comparisons to put any given company's ratio in perspective. The debt ratio is calculated by dividing total liabilities by total assets. The debt ratio for OPTR is a low 20.3%. In other words, the company is less sensitive to changes in business or interest rates since less of its cash flow is dedicated to paying off loan expenses. As with all financial ratios, a company's debt ratio should be compared with the industry average or similar companies.

Increasing 4.1%, Questcor Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:QCOR) is trading at $52.16 per share. The company's volume for the day so far is 908,784 shares. This is consistent with the average over the past three months. The trading volume for a stock indicates the level of investor interest. Investors can make use of valuation ratios to estimate whether a stock is fairly valued. Using price/earnings ratios (P/E ratios) does not give an indication of whether or not an individual company's ratio is reasonable, a shortcoming that can be corrected by using the price/earnings to growth ratio (PEG ratio). PEG ratio for QCOR is 0.62. Because of the adjustment for earnings growth rate, the PEG ratio is somewhat more useful than many formulas for comparing companies in different industries.

Falling 3.5%, Insulet (Nasdaq:PODD) is currently at a share price of $21.30. The company's volume is currently 124,216 shares for the day, consistent with its current daily average. High volume indicates a lot of investor interest while low volume indicates the opposite. Looking at a company's valuation ratios is a good way of getting a basic idea as to its value as an investment. The price/book value ratio, often expressed simply as "price-to-book", provides investors a way to compare the market value, or what they are paying for each share, to a conservative measure of the value of the firm. PODD has a P/B ratio of 21.52 which shows that its share price is higher than its book value. This implies that investors expect management to create more value from a given set of assets and/or that the market value of the firm's assets is significantly higher than their accounting value. All else being equal, a stock with a low P/B value ratio is more attractive than a stock with a high ratio. SEE: Using The Price-To-Book Ratio To Evaluate Companies

Pacira Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:PCRX) is down 2.6% to reach $16.99 per share. So far today, 151,720 shares have changed hands. Volume is an important indicator in technical analysis as it is used to measure the worth of a market move. If the markets have made a strong price move either up or down the perceived strength of that move depends on the volume for that period. The higher the volume during that price move the more significant the move. When estimating the value of a particular investment, valuation ratios provide a good basis for assessing the value of an individual stock. A price/sales ratio is derived by dividing stock market price by company sales. PCRX's P/S ratio of 18.44 is on the high side. This could be a good sign if the share price increases. A limitation of the P/S ratio is that the price component measures only stock market captialization, while sales are a function of the entire capital structure, potentially leading to wide differences between levered and unlevered companies.

Rising 2.3%, Onyx Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:ONXX) is currently trading at $83.13 per share. So far today, 708,832 shares have changed hands, lighter than yesterday's volume of 2.9 million shares. Volume is an important indicator because it indicates how significant a price shift is. A company's investment value can be estimated using valuation ratios such as the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, the price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio, the price to sales (P/S) ratio, the price to book (P/B) ratio, and the dividend yield. A simple P/E ratio can reveal the stock's real market value and show how the valuation compares to its industry group or a benchmark like the S&P 500 Index. P/E ratio for ONXX is 270.9. A high P/E ratio indicates a stock that is expensive, while a low P/E ratio indicates a stock that is cheap. SEE: Profit With The Power Of Price-To-Earnings

Slipping 2.1%, MWI Veterinary Supply (Nasdaq:MWIV) is currently trading at $106.72 per share. So far today, the company's volume is 14,509 shares. This is 0.3 times its current three-month average. Price change alone is not enough to know how a stock is doing. Volume is an important secondary indicator used to confirm trends suggested by price movement. Investment valuation ratios can be very useful in estimating whether a stock price is too high, reasonable or a bargain investment opportunity. The debt-equity (D/E) ratio is a measurement of how much suppliers, lenders, creditors and obligors have committed to the company versus what the shareholders have committed. MWIV has a low debt-equity ratio of 17%. Companies with low D/E ratios are more attractive to investors because they are better able to protect their business interests in times of decline. The D/E ratio is not a pure measurement of a company's debt because it includes operational liabilities in total liabilities.

The Bottom Line No matter the economic climate, Wall Street will always have stocks that make major moves each week. Paying close attention to the previous ratios will help you identify key times to adjust your strategy. Keep in mind that all these ratios should be compared against historical numbers and industry information in order to get a more complete picture.

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