There’s a strong feeling growing among investors – of relief – that the new year will feature lower volatility than 2020. That along would be enough to boost spirits, but better yet, there is also a perception that the markets are going to drive higher in the new year.Marko Kolanovic, JPMorgan’s well-known quant expert, sees the initial stages of a positive feedback loop, with lower volatility and systematic investment strategies coming together to drive gains, attracting more investors – and, in Kolanovic’s view, pushing the S&P 500 to 4,600 by year’s end. That will be a 25% increase for the index.A general market environment like that is bound to produce plenty of stock winners, and Wall Street’s analysts are busy pointing them out. Among other things, they are tapping penny stocks, equities priced at less than $5 per share. Their rock-bottom starting price makes pennies the logical place to look for huge returns on investment. Although their risk factor is high, even a small gain in absolute numbers will turn into a massive percentage gain in share price.Using TipRanks’ database, we identified two penny stocks the pros believe could see explosive gains in the coming months. Not to mention each one gets a “Strong Buy” consensus rating from the analyst community.9 Meters Biopharma (NMTR)Some biopharma companies take a broad-based approach, while others focus on a niche. 9 Meters is one of the latter, taking aim at unmet needs for gastrointestinal patients. The company’s development pipeline features drug candidates under investigation as treatments for short bowel syndrome (SBS) and celiac disease (CeD), two conditions that are both dangerous and difficult to treat.Drilling down to pipeline details, 9 Meters’ flagship product, Larazotide, is in Phase 3 development for the treatment of CeD. CeD affects about 1% of the population, yet there are no approved therapies. Top-line data from the study is expected in the second half of 2021.Furthermore, this past December, the company announced that it had entered an agreement with EBRIS, the European Biomedical Research Institute of Salerno, to investigate Larazotide as a potential treatment for respiratory complications due to COVID-19.The other major drug in the company’s pipeline is NM-002, for SBS. The company has recently announced positive Phase 1b/2a results, with a measurable impact on disease symptoms from a compound that was well-tolerated by patients.NMTR’s strong pipeline and $0.89 share price have scored it substantial praise from the pros on Wall Street.One of these NMTR bulls is Truist’s Srikripa Devarakonda. Citing Larazotide as a key component of his bullish thesis, the analyst noted, “We acknowledge investors are likely to see a pivotal trial in a tough-to-crack Celiac disease program as high risk despite encouraging Ph2b data. We model $705M/$353M in peak unadjusted/adjusted sales and see potential upside of 400% – 1650% from positive Ph3 readout.”Devarakonda also sees “significant unmet need in SBS” and continues to believe that “NM-002 has a differentiated profile vs. SOC.” His key takeaways from the recent Phase 1b/2a results include: “1) we believe that the drug showed early activity in SBS patients; all 9 patients showed meaningful reduction in total stool output volume; average TSO reduction was 42% from baseline; 2) responses occur rapidly, with effects on TSO seen within 48 hours of dosing; 3) safety profile looks favorable, we would like to see greater durability.”To this end, Devarakonda rates NMTR shares a Buy along with a $5 price target. This figure conveys his confidence in NMTR’s ability to soar 462% in the coming year. (To watch Devarakonda’s track record, click here)Turning now to the rest of the Street, other analysts are on the same page. With 4 Buys and no Holds or Sells, the word on the Street is that NMTR is a Strong Buy. Given its $4.33 average price target, upside of 386% could be in store for investors. (See NMTR stock analysis on TipRanks)Orchard Therapeutics (ORTX)Orchard Therapeutics takes the broad-based approach to the biopharma industry. The company is engaged in the development of gene therapies for rare, frequently terminal, diseases, including neurometabolic disorders, primary immune deficiencies, and blood disorders. The gene therapy approach uses blood stem cells to deliver corrected genetic information directly into the patient’s body.Orchard’s pipeline demonstrates the diversity of disorders amenable to gene therapy – the company has no less than 12 drug candidates in development. Among these candidates, Libmeldy (OTL-200) stands out.Libmeldy is in commercialization stages as a treatment for MLD (metachromatic leukodystrophy), a rare, mutation-based genetic disorder of the nervous system. Libmeldy, which is designed to treat children suffering from the infantile for juvenile forms of MLD by replacing the defective ARSA gene, received its approval for medical use in the EU in December 2020.Wedbush analyst David Nierengarten notes the European approval of Libmeldy, and its implication for Orchard’s progress. He writes, “We look forward to the company’s commercial execution in the EU and an eventual 2022 approval in the US. Last month ORTX received IND clearance from the FDA for the program paving the way for discussions with the US regulators to decide a suitable path forward toward a BLA filing.””Net-net, with possibly two gene therapies approved in the next 12-18 months and a pivotal study beginning in a third (MPS-I), we think ORTX shares are undervalued at these levels,” the analyst concluded. In line with his bullish comments, Nierengarten rates ORTX as Outperform (i.e. Buy), and his $15 price target indicates a potential for 241% growth in the year ahead. (To watch Nierengarten’s track record, click here)Do other analysts agree with Nierengarten? They do. Only Buy ratings, 3, in fact, have been issued in the last three months. Therefore, ORTX gets a Strong Buy consensus rating. At $15, the average price target indicates shares could appreciate by 241% in the year ahead. (See ORTX stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for penny stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
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