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Bulls Abandon Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) at Just the Wrong Time

As TSLA continues to rally, bullish speculators back off

by 4/19/2013 1:44 PM
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Bulls may have given up on Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) a little too soon. With the stock up nearly 6% today to hit a new all-time high of $49.88, there remains growing evidence that bullish options speculators have been heading for the exits.

When I looked at Tesla Motors last Thursday, I noted the waning optimism in the name,as indicated by reduced demand for call options. At that point, Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) for TSLA stood at 1.16, higher than 88% of the past year's worth of readings. In the ensuing days, this ratio has jumped to 1.30, which is just 1 percentage point shy of an annual peak.

In other words, put contracts currently exceed call contracts 130-to-100, and this ratio reveals a demand for puts that is nearly unprecedented over the last 12 months. What's more, since the SOIR only measures options expiring in the next three months, the recently purchased large block of puts expiring in January 2015 did not inflate this reading.

Elsewhere, since my April 11 check-up of TSLA, its 10-day call/put volume ratio tracking buy-to-open activity on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) has dropped to 1.16 from 2.72. The present ratio is in lower than 77% of all readings taken during the past year.

And meanwhile, as noted, TSLA has quietly risen to a new all-time high. In fact, since its April 10 close, the stock has added nearly 18%. Taking a wider look, TSLA has rallied almost 46% so far in 2013, outperforming the S&P 500 Index (SPX) by 30 percentage points during the last two months.

Call speculators may be second-guessing themselves today, as over 24,000 call contracts have traded, representing an uptick of nearly 90% from the norm. Several out-of-the-money calls, however, such as the May 50 and May 55 strikes, are seeing much of the volume trade off the bid price. These could be investors taking profits off the table ahead of the weekend, or it might be shareholders looking to collect some extra premium via a covered call.

At last check, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) stock was up 5% at $49.33.


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