Biotechnology stocks stole much of what thunder remained in a1990 stock market that was overshadowed in the year's secondhalf by war clouds and recession chills.

The biotechnology sector's relative success was mirrored in theFidelity Select Fund in biotechnology, which was ranked thetop-performing major stock mutual fund for the year, by theLipper Analytical Service. It gained 43 percent in value, whilehealth and biotechnology mutual funds overall rose 18 percentduring 1990. The rise showed how tough a year it was. In1989, they turned in an overall gain of nearly 44 percent.

The 1990 rocket in biotechnology was Amgen Inc., whichclosed at $62.25 a share, up 154 percent from a 1989 close of$24.50 (factored for a 2-for-1 stock split). Market value ofAmgen stock topped $2.5 billion by year's end.

The market's second-half swoon took a large toll on the small-capitalization stocks, which dropped 13 percent betweenAugust and early December, said R. Brandon Fradd ofMontgomery Securities. Market conditions alone could notexplain the sector's biggest loser, Invitron Corp. Its stocktumbled to less than 13 cents a share by year's end as thecompany ran short of customers for its mammalian cell cultureservices. Invitron agreed last month to sell its St. Louisoperations to Centocor Corp. H Ray Potter

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.