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Options Update: Put Speculators Storm SunPower Corporation (SPWRA)

Is the Street's icy outlook on SPWRA warranted?

by 4/29/2010 11:25:29 AM
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Put players pounced on SunPower Corporation (SPWRA) on Wednesday, as the shares of the solar concern tumbled to a record low. The equity was likely responding to rival First Solar's (FSLR) pending $285 million acquisition of NextLight Renewable Power LLC, which includes a 1,100 MW project pipeline expected to "complement [the company's] project portfolio," according to Chief Executive Rob Gillette.

By the closing bell, SPWRA saw roughly 7,900 puts cross the tape, more than quadrupling its expected daily volume of fewer than 1,900 puts. However, digging deeper into the data indicates that a healthy portion of yesterday's put traders weren't necessarily bearishly biased toward the stock.

The security's now-near-the-money June 16 put was most active, with close to 3,300 contracts exchanged. Put open interest at the back-month strike swelled by almost 3,000 contracts overnight, confirming our suspicions of newly added positions. However, 96% of the puts changed hands at the bid price, suggesting they were likely sold.

By selling to open the June 16 puts, the writers are expecting the shares of SPWRA to remain north of the $16 level through June options expiration. In this best-case scenario, the sold puts will expire worthless, allowing the traders to pocket the premium received at initiation, which represents the maximum potential reward on the play.

Nevertheless, checking out SPWRA's sentiment backdrop reveals that yesterday's affinity for puts was nothing new for the solar sultan. The stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) has stair-stepped higher in recent months, and now sits at 1.28, in the 92nd annual percentile. In other words, near-term option traders have been more pessimistically positioned toward SPWRA only 8% of the time during the past year.

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