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Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) has been a broad-market standout, to say the least, advancing 478% to $163.51 over the past year. More recently, the electric vehicle maker has outperformed the S&P 500 Index (SPX) by almost 55 percentage points during the last three months, and tagged a record high of $173.70 earlier this month. Nevertheless, option buyers are picking up TSLA puts at a rapid-fire rate.
During the past two weeks, TSLA has racked up a put/call volume ratio of 1.05 on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). Compared to similar readings of the past year, this ratio registers in the 87th percentile. In other words, option buyers have scooped up TSLA puts over calls at a much faster-than-usual pace.
Reflecting that, the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) has ascended to 1.93, indicating that puts nearly double calls among options expiring within three months. Even more telling, this ratio sits just 1 percentage point from a 52-week high, suggesting near-term option traders have rarely been more put-skewed during the past year.
Garnering notable attention has been the in-the-money September 165 put, which has seen more than 2,800 contracts opened during the past two weeks. Nearly all of the puts were bought to open, indicating traders are bracing for a breach of $165 in the short term. If the puts were purchased when TSLA was trading north of $165, though, the investors could've been locking in profits in the event of a pullback -- a strategy that would've been well timed, in retrospect.
Meanwhile, the out-of-the-money October 130 put has seen roughly 2,500 contracts added over the past 10 sessions. The majority of the puts were sold to open, though, meaning the sellers are expecting TSLA to remain north of $130 over the next several weeks (and may be willing to buy the shares at this price point).
Elsewhere on Wall Street, analysts remain skeptical of TSLA, despite the stock's impressive performance on the charts. In fact, six out of 13 brokerage firms maintain "hold" or worse opinions. Likewise, the consensus 12-month price target of $153.91 represents a discount to TSLA's current share price.
In the same skeptical vein, short interest rose 9% during the past two reporting periods, and now accounts for 27.7% of TSLA's total available float, or more than 21.5 million shares.
Should Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) -- which recently announced expansion plans in Europe -- resume its quest for all-time highs, an unwinding of bearish bets in the options pits, a wave of upbeat analyst attention, or a short-squeeze situation could translate into contrarian boons for the shares. Furthermore, the stock should continue to find support atop its 20-day moving average, and could find an ally at $160 -- quadruple the $40 breakout, which was resistance from 2011 until earlier this year.