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Options Update: Pre-Earnings Pessimists Target Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB)

Dissecting a bear put spread on FITB ahead of earnings

by 1/12/2010 11:10:15 AM
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Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB: View sentiment for FITBsentiment, chart, options) is slated to take the earnings stage on Thursday, Jan. 21, according to Thomson Reuters. Ahead of the event, option players have initiated bearish positions at a rapid-fire rate lately.

During the past couple of weeks, speculators on the International Securities Exchange (ISE) have bought to open more FITB puts than calls, as indicated by the stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.61. What's more, this reading registers in the 96th annual percentile, implying that traders on the ISE have scooped up FITB puts over calls at a faster pace only 4% of the time during the past year.

In fact, during the course of Monday's session, the financial issue saw roughly 10,600 puts cross the tape more than 4.5 times its average daily volume of fewer than 2,400 puts. Most active was the security's out-of-the-money February 10 put, which saw about 6,600 contracts change hands. The February 10 strike is now home to almost 11,400 put contracts, making it runner-up to only the deeper-out-of-the-money 6 strike, which harbors close to 12,350 puts outstanding.

February OI for FITB

Digging deeper into Monday's data, we find that one back-month bettor couldn't quite commit to the bears' camp. More specifically, the investor bought 1,500 February 11 puts for $0.63 apiece, but to protect against a potential post-earnings rally in the shares, simultaneously sold an equal amount of February 10 puts for $0.28 apiece. In other words, the strategist initiated a bear put spread on FITB.

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