Stocks quoted in this article:
Against a background of fiscal-cliff uncertainties and mixed economic reports, stocks are down slightly in afternoon trading. Bucking this trend, however, the number of equities at new highs today is far outreaching those at new lows. On the NYSE, there are 105 new peaks and just seven bottoms, while the Nasdaq is reporting 37 tops and 17 lows -- including Zumiez Inc.'s (NASDAQ:ZUMZ) earnings-induced low of $18.58. Among the stocks charting notable moves are Visa Inc (NYSE:V - 149.60), DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH - 36.76), and AFLAC Incorporated (NYSE:AFL - 52.73).
- Make it another session of record highs for credit-card name V, as shares jumped to an all-time best of $149.68. Although today's rally added to the stock's lofty 46% year-to-date gain, this overall uptrend hasn't deterred a mostly bearish options crowd. V's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.34 ranks in the 72nd percentile of its annual range, which means that short-term options players have been more put-heavy just over a quarter of the time during the past year. Moreover, data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), shows a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.12, which is up from V's 50-day put/call volume ratio of 0.81.
- Moving on … DISH has turned in a pretty solid performance on the charts, leaping 25.6% in 2012, and an even more impressive 45.6% over the past 52 weeks. From a sentiment standpoint, however, the brokerage bunch has yet to fully appreciate this technical prowess. While the 14 analysts following DISH are split, the average 12-month price target of $36.67 represents a discount to the stock's new five-year acme of $36.94 -- tagged earlier today.
- In early trading, life insurance company AFL launched to the $53.14 level -- its highest price since May 2011 -- and amplified its year-to-date rise of 21.8%. Perhaps foreshadowing additional upside, it seems that relatively few traders are betting on a pullback anytime soon. Though short interest rose 13% during the most recent reporting period, these shorted shares now make up just 1.8% of the equity's float, pointing to a rather meager supply of sideline cash. Elsewhere on the Street, there could be a change of heart among the doubtful brokerages covering AFL. Currently, there are six "strong buys" and two "buys," versus eight middling "holds." Plus, the consensus 12-month price target of $55.50 is a slight premium to today's 19-month peak.