Speculative players have been taking sides on blue chip Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ), streaming video provider Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), and Finnish telecom concern Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:NOK), according to data from the major options exchanges. While the latter has seen heavy call volume in recent weeks, HPQ and NFLX have become favorites among put buyers. Here's a closer look at recent option activity on these three stocks.
Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ)
During the past five days, options traders on the International Securities Exchange (ISE) have bought to open 14,379 puts on HPQ, compared to just 1,947 calls -- resulting in a put/call volume ratio of 7.39.
Broadening that, HPQ has racked up a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 3.86 on the ISE, Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). Not only does this ratio indicate that traders have bought to open nearly four bearish bets for every bullish during the past two weeks, it also arrives in the 100th percentile of its 12-month range. In other words, option players are purchasing HPQ puts over calls at an annual-high clip.
As a result, the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) stands at 1.48 -- just 1 percentage point from a 52-week high. In simpler terms, near-term option traders have rarely been more put-heavy on HPQ during the past year.
Echoing that, just four analysts offer up "buy" or better endorsements, compared to 13 "holds" and five "sell" or worse ratings. In the same vein, the consensus 12-month price target of $23.94 represents a discount to HPQ's current price of $27.03.
This pessimism seems unwarranted, though. HPQ has charged roughly 90% higher in 2013, and has outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by 20 percentage points during the past three months. In fact, HPQ just touched a new annual high of $27.78 this past Friday. Should the security extend its quest for new highs, a mass exodus of bears could translate into a boon for the tech titan.
Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)
Over the past week, NFLX has seen 6,827 puts change hands on the ISE -- among the top 25 of all stocks, in terms of volume. Over the past 50 sessions, the equity has racked up an ISE/CBOE/PHLX put/call volume ratio of 0.90, which stands higher than 74% of comparable readings of the past year. In other words, NFLX traders have bought to open puts relative to calls at an accelerated clip during the past 10 weeks.
Elsewhere on Wall Street, just five analysts have doled out "buy" or better recommendations. On the flip side, NFLX sports 17 tepid "holds" and four "sell" or "strong sell" suggestions. Likewise, the consensus 12-month price target of $229.33 is significantly lower than NFLX's current price of $253.61.
As with HPQ, this skepticism seems unfounded. NFLX has skyrocketed more than 173% year-to-date, and has outshined the SPX by nearly 12 percentage points over the past 60 sessions. As the shares continue to barrel higher, an unwinding of pessimism in the options pits, or a round of upgrades and/or price-target hikes, could add contrarian fuel to the fire.
Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:NOK)
Finally, call buyers have set their sights on NOK. During the past five sessions, the stock has seen 10,560 calls change hands on the CBOE, compared to 872 puts, resulting in a bullishly skewed call/put volume ratio of 12.11. Similarly, the stock's 10-day call/put volume ratio on the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX rests at 6.16, just 4 percentage points from a 12-month high.
However, it's worth noting that short interest accounts for more than 228 million NOK shares, or 6.2% of the stock's total available float. In fact, it would take more than eight sessions to buy back all of these bearish bets, at NOK's average pace of trading. Against this backdrop -- and considering the stock is muscling higher -- it's possible that short sellers are hedging their pessimistic positions with long calls.
Meanwhile, the brokerage bunch is also wary of NOK, which has outperformed the SPX by 11 percentage points during the past couple of months. Just five analysts deem the stock worthy of a "buy" or better rating, compared to 14 with "hold" or worse suggestions. Not to mention the average 12-month price target of $3.58 sits 14% south of NOK's current perch at $4.16.
Technically speaking, NOK has surged more than 65% over the past year, and has added more than 35% since mid-April, when the shares were hovering just north of $3. If NOK extends its upward momentum, a reversal in sentiment on Wall Street could spark contrarian tailwinds.
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