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Puts Pick Up Steam as Shutterfly's CFO Departs

Sentiment is largely bullish toward flagging SFLY

by 1/13/2012 11:30:27 AM
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After the market closed last night, Shutterfly, Inc. (SFLY - 22.01) announced that its CFO is resigning to "pursue a personal passion" with a medical technology company. SFLY's CEO and top accounting executive will share duties while the company searches for a replacement.

This move comes just weeks after the Internet-based photo service slashed its fourth-quarter guidance, pointing to heavy competitor discounting for the adjustment.

Wall Street was apparently disappointed by the news, and pushed SFLY down more than 4%, to hit a new annual low of $21.34. This push has exacerbated the stock's 33.6% 52-week tumble, and has taken a chunk out of its gains for 2012. At last check, the shares are cowering below recent resistance at the $25 mark. In fact, SFLY is in danger of racking up its fifth consecutive weekly close under this level.


As a result, SFLY has seen more than 800 puts traded already today -- about four times its average daily volume.

From a longer-term perspective, though, today's preference for puts marks a change of pace, as evidenced by the stock's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 1.82 on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). This ratio arrives in the 68th percentile of its annual range, signaling an increased appetite for calls over puts during the past couple of weeks.

However, this recent trend toward calls may not be as bullish as it would initially appear. Short interest for SFLY has jumped 11.4% over the most recent reporting period. These bearish bets now account for 26.4% of the security's available float, so it is possible that a portion of the recent call volume was a result of hedging activity by the shorts.

Before last night's news, the brokerage bunch was overwhelmingly positive toward the laggard. Zacks points out that 83% of analysts following SFLY consider it worthy of a "strong buy" rating. In addition, Thomson Reuters places the average 12-month price target at $38.60, which signifies a near 81% premium to today's new low of $21.34.

This morning, however, Roth Capital said the CFO's exit is just another reason to be wary of SFLY. Likewise, Janney is now predicting "even more-conservative guidance" from SFLY.

In light of SFLY's poor technical and fundamental predicaments, the stock's decline could be amplified by an unwinding of bullish sentiment among analysts and options traders.


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