Put volume is outpacing call volume by a margin of more than
United States Steel Corporation's
) options pits. The majority of the put activity is taking place at
the January 2014 17-strike put, where nearly 7,100 contracts have
traded. With 98% of the puts changing hands at the ask price and
implied volatility slightly higher, it's likely the activity is of
the buy-to-open sort -- a theory that data from the International
Securities Exchange (ISE) corroborates.
Delving a little deeper, we see that most of the trading volume can
be attributed to a single block of 5,812 contracts, which crossed
the tape 15 minutes after the opening bell. The bearish speculator
paid a $1.45 premium to enter his long position, making the
breakeven point for the trade $15.55, or the strike price minus the
initial net debit. If X shares sink beneath that mark by January
expiration, the trader will profit with every step south the stock
takes. However, if the equity finds a foothold above the strike,
the most the big bear can lose is the premium paid.
Traders, especially in the short term, have been bearishly aligned
toward US Steel. The stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest
ratio (SOIR) stands at 1.41, which means put open interest on
options expiring in the next three months outstrips call open
interest. What's more, the SOIR is just 4 percentage points from an
annual acme, confirming the current bearish bias, relative to the
past 52 weeks.
On top of that, X -- like sector peer
AK Steel Holding Corporation
) -- has received some
downbeat brokerage attention
in recent weeks. At present, U.S. Steel features just three "buy"
or better ratings, compared to 11 "hold" or worse evaluations.
Of course, none of this is unexpected, given United States Steel
Corporation's year-to-date loss of nearly 21%. Recently, however,
the metal producer has displayed some technical strength,
outperforming the broader
S&P 500 Index
(INDEXSP:.INX) by 5 percentage points through the last 20 sessions.
In other news, US Steel is preparing to report second-quarter
earnings next Tuesday, prior to the opening bell. Analysts are
calling for a per-share loss of $0.77.
This article by Alex Eppstein was originally published on
Schaeffer's Investment Research
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