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Did Peabody Energy Shorts Stick Around Too Long?

December-dated BTU calls were a popular choice on Wednesday

by 12/6/2012 10:19 AM
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Option volume surged on Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU - 26.58) yesterday, with roughly 18,000 calls and 16,000 puts crossing the tape during the course of the session. This flurry of activity represented more than double the commodity stock's average daily volume, which amounts to about 7,000 calls and 7,000 puts.

Wednesday's most active option was the December 28 call, where 5,801 contracts changed hands. More than two-thirds of these BTU calls traded at the ask price, and open interest at this strike jumped overnight by 3,860 contracts. Based on this data, it looks as though bullish speculators bought to open new December 28 calls during yesterday's session.

The option's volume-weighted average price (VWAP) arrived at $0.24 on Wednesday, so a ballpark breakeven point on this call play would be around $28.24. If BTU rises above this threshold prior to December expiration, bulls will begin to see profits on their purchased calls.

BTU has been a technical laggard in 2012, shedding 21.3% of its value year-to-date. However, the shares are attempting to stage a comeback on the charts. Currently, the stock is on pace for a second consecutive daily close above its 200-day moving average. Following a similar breakout above this trendline in October, it's possible that resistance here could be weakening.

 Daily Chart of BTU since June 2011 With 200-Day Moving Average

In fact, some of those BTU call buyers might actually be short sellers looking to hedge against a continued rebound. Despite a nearly 20% decline during the most recent reporting period, short interest still accounts for a relatively steep 7.4% of the stock's float. With BTU muscling atop a benchmark trendline, some of the remaining shorts might be buying out-of-the-money calls to limit their upside risk.


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