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Chipotle Mexican Grill Lands on the Bearish Radar

Put volume has ramped up this week on restaurant stock CMG

by 6/29/2012 12:44 PM
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It's been a tough week for Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG - 375.99), as the stock is currently down about 9.5% from last Friday's close at $415.48. Shares of CMG have been hit particularly hard over the past three days, with the restaurateur gapping below support in the $390-$385 region on Thursday. Meanwhile, in the options pits, speculators appear to be looking for a continued swoon from the stock.

Overall, put volume on CMG has ramped up to two times the expected level today, with roughly 9,500 contracts crossing the tape so far. The most active strike is the weekly 375-strike put, which is due to expire after the close of trading next Friday, July 6. Just about 1,200 contracts have traded at this near-the-money strike, with 60% crossing at the ask price -- indicating they were most likely purchased. This short-term put carries open interest of only 75 contracts, so it's safe to assume that new bearish bets are being opened here today.

The volume-weighted average price (VWAP) on the weekly 375 put currently stands at $5.57, which means CMG would need to fall below $369.43 for these put buyers to make a profit. That's just about 1.7% below the stock's current price.

As my colleague Beth Gaston observed earlier this week, the sudden interest in CMG puts is a deviation from the norm. Since she covered the stock on Wednesday, though, the 10-day call/put volume ratio has retreated to 0.85 from 0.93 -- reflecting this week's uptick in bearish speculation on the shares.

Plus, support at CMG's 120-day moving average has given way, with the shares now trading more than 20 points below this former technical backstop. While the stock appears to have stabilized somewhat in today's trading, with CMG just fractionally lower at last look, it seems that quite a few traders are betting on an extended breakdown for the shares.

Daily Chart of CMG since December 2011 With 120-Day Moving Average


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