Put Trader Targets Steeper Slide for Applied Materials Stock

Applied Materials recent post-earnings performances have been lackluster

by Josh Selway |

Published on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:33 PM

Yesterday, we explained why semiconductor equipment specialist Lam Research could be set to rally. Now we're turning our attention to sector peer Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT), which is seeing accelerated options trading today, ahead of the company's earnings release next Thursday evening. Data suggests one trader has placed an ambitious bet on AMAT stock moving lower in the coming weeks. 

Digging deeper, put volume for Applied Materials has already hit a 52-week high, with 33,536 contracts traded -- seven times the expected pace. The bulk of the activity has occurred at the September 42 and October 39 puts. It appears one trader sold to close more than 12,000 contracts of the former option to open a sizable long position in the latter -- what's known as rolling down. If this is the case, this bear is banking on a move below $39 from AMAT shares before the options expire on Friday, Oct. 20. 

As would be expected with earnings around the corner, near-term options are pricing in extremely high volatility expectations. This is evidenced by AMAT's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility of 36.9%, which is just 3 percentage points from a 12-month high. In other words, it's far from the most opportune time to buy the equity's options. 

Any caution from options traders may be due in part to Applied Materials recent earnings history. After some major post-earnings upside moves throughout 2016, the stock has put in three lackluster performances in the session after earnings during the past three quarters -- including a 0.9% loss last February. 

Not to mention, AMAT's momentum on the charts has slowed. At $42.92, the shares have pulled back since nearly matching their June 9 record high two weeks ago. In fact, Applied Materials stock yesterday closed below its 100-day moving average for the first time in well over a year, and is testing this important trendline once again today. 

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