Speculators have adopted a bearish tone lately with PC giant Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL - 12.36), content distribution specialist Level 3 Communications, Inc. (NYSE:LVLT - 21.56), and video conferencing concern Logitech International S.A. (NASDAQ:LOGI - 10.75). In recent sessions, traders have shown a remarkably healthy appetite for puts over calls on DELL, LVLT, and LOGI. Here's a closer look at the latest trends in the options pits for these three hot tech stocks.
During the past five sessions, options players have bought to open 15,797 puts on DELL, compared to just 1,522 calls, according to data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE) and Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). The resulting five-day ISE/CBOE put/call volume ratio of 10.38 reveals that more than 10 times as many puts as calls have been purchased on DELL over the past week.
In the same bearish vein, the security has racked up a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 5.25 on the ISE, CBOE, and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). This ratio registers in the 99th percentile of its annual range, indicating that speculative investors have purchased puts over calls on DELL at a faster pace just 1% of the time.
Likewise, DELL's 50-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX put/call volume ratio of 1.54 is docked in the 99th annual percentile, confirming a strongly pessimistic stance among options traders. In fact, the equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.15 reveals that puts outnumber calls among options slated to expire within three months.
Elsewhere on Wall Street, short sellers have been hitting the exits. Short interest on DELL contracted by more than 13% during the past two reporting periods, and now accounts for just under 4% of the equity's float. However, in light of the stock's dire technical situation, it seems likely that shorts were taking profits on their winning bets, rather than admitting defeat.
DELL was hammered lower after a disappointing turn in the earnings spotlight in late May, which exacerbated an existing slump for the shares. Now, the stock has racked up a year-to-date deficit of 14.5%, and DELL has shed another 1.2% today following news that it will acquire Quest Software (NASDAQ:QSFT) for $2.4 billion.
Meanwhile, LVLT has also attracted some bearish scrutiny in the options pits. Over the past five sessions, traders on the ISE and CBOE have bought to open no fewer than 8,969 puts on LVLT, along with 206 calls -- netting the shares a put/call volume ratio of 43.54.
This appears to be part of a broader trend for LVLT, as the stock's 10-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX put/call volume ratio of 10.50 arrives in the 96th percentile of its annual range. In other words, traders have shown a greater appetite for bearish bets over bullish just 4% of the time during the past year.
Plus, LVLT's SOIR of 1.21 ranks above 99% of other such readings taken over the previous 52 weeks. This lofty percentile rank reveals that short-term options players have rarely been more put-heavy on the tech concern.
Short sellers are also raising the bearish stakes. Short interest on LVLT ballooned by 21.7% over the past two reporting periods, and now accounts for 10.2% of the security's float -- or 7.5 times the stock's average daily trading volume.
On the charts, LVLT is up about 30% in 2012 -- but the stock is down more than 41% over the past 52 weeks. The shares are currently pinned just below their 50-day moving average. This trendline formerly served as support, but has more recently switched roles to limit LVLT's rally attempts.
Turning to LOGI, speculators have snapped up 3,405 puts and 32 calls on the ISE and CBOE during the past week. The resulting five-day ISE/CBOE put/call volume ratio of 106.41 highlights a dramatic slant toward pessimistically oriented options.
Indeed, LOGI's 10-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX put/call volume ratio of 83.60 is docked at a new 52-week peak -- indicating that options traders have been purchasing puts over calls at their fastest pace of the past year. What's more, the stock's SOIR of 4.00 reveals that puts quadruple calls among options slated to expire within three months, and short interest makes up a hefty 13.6% of LOGI's float.
Given the heavy-handed negativity levied against LOGI, it's interesting to observe that the shares are up more than 37% year-to-date. The stock gapped higher in late April on news of a restructuring plan, and has since been guided higher by support at its 40-day moving average. In fact, LOGI is now trading comfortably north of its average 12-month price target of $10.27 -- suggesting that the shares could benefit from a few overdue bullish brokerage notes during the near term.
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