NEW YORK, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Little-known medical equipment and biotech companies jumped on Wall Street on Monday, following news that a nurse had become the first person to contract the deadly Ebola virus in the United States.
Shares of biotechnology company Ibio Inc, hazmat suits maker Lakeland Industries Inc, and face mask maker Alpha Pro Tech Ltd were all higher near midday.
Investors have piled into various companies that are either developing treatments for the disease or provide protective gear. Trading volumes have been on the rise, and the market values of some once-obscure names have soared in the span of a few days.
“The spider’s web of companies that are beneficiaries to an Ebola outbreak are becoming visible to portfolio managers,” said Paul Weisbruch, vice president of ETF and options sales and trading at Street One Financial. “It’s not like buying a vaccine that might work. There’s something more tangible with someone who supplies hazmat suits.”
On Sunday, health officials announced that a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas became the first person to contract Ebola in the United States. The nurse had treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who two weeks ago was the first person in the United States diagnosed with the hemorrhagic fever. Duncan died last week.
Lakeland was up 10.5 percent after soaring 125 percent last week. Its market value has almost quadrupled in the last month, reaching about $120 million from $34 million a month ago.
The myriad headlines related to Ebola “could certainly bring a lot of these smaller and mid-cap pharmaceutical and equipment (maker) names to life,” Weisbruch said.
Alpha Pro Tech rose 17.5 percent, as its trading volume soared. Until a few days ago it was a lightly traded stock, with 10,000 to 50,000 shares traded daily. On Monday, more than 833,000 shares had changed hands. Alpha Pro’s shares jumped 129 percent last week.
Ibio Inc rose 66 percent to $2.48 a share on 2.18 million shares traded, already the busiest day in its history, after news last week that the company might play a role in expanding production of the experimental Ebola drug, ZMapp. The shares on Friday surged 83 percent.
Ebola drugmaker Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp , whose shares had seen huge spikes earlier this year on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, were also higher on Monday, rising 4.4 percent to $23.88.
Not every sector has benefited. Concerns about travel safety has slammed airline shares; the Thomson Reuters U.S. Airline Index has cratered in the last month, dropping 17 percent in the past 17 trading days. (Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Leslie Adler)