Kicking off a week full of earnings announcements, Nordic American Tanker Shipping Limited (NAT - 13.58) today announced a fourth-quarter loss of $17.7 million, or 37 cents per share, compared to last year's loss of $12.8 million, or 27 cents per share. Revenue was also on the decline, falling 5.9% to $19.3 million. The results came in below analysts' expectations for a loss of 29 cents per share on $26 million in sales. Despite the weak report, NAT maintained its quarterly dividend of 30 cents per share.
Although NAT has a recent history of earnings misses, bullish options traders appeared to favor the tanker titan ahead of this morning's announcement. For starters, NAT's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.49 shows that call open interest doubles put open interest among options set to expire within the next three months. What's more, this ratio ranks just 21 percentage points from a 52-week low, indicating that speculators are more call-heavy now than usual toward the stock.
Echoing this apparent optimism is data gathered from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). Specifically, traders on these exchanges have bought to open 6.94 calls for every put during the past 20 sessions -- showing a distinct preference for bullish bets over bearish ones in the month prior.
However, the recent uptick in call volume ahead of earnings may be indicative of hedging activity, as short interest currently accounts for a healthy 9% of the stock's available float. It would take over a week to cover these shorted shares, at NAT's average daily trading volume.
Wall Street is not too happy with the loss, as the stock is down more than 1% in today's session. With the post-earnings dip, NAT could be risk of breaching a recently found foothold atop its 100-day moving average.
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