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Alternative energy concern First Solar, Inc. (FSLR - 15.86) has been a fan favorite among eleventh-hour option bulls, with speculators betting on the stock to extend its recent rebound in the short term. Just before midday, the equity has seen roughly 20,000 calls cross the tape -- almost four times its average intraday call activity. What's more, the majority of the calls consist of weekly contracts, which expire at the closing bell today.
Specifically, the stock's now near-the-money weekly 16- and 17-strike calls have seen around 4,700 and 2,400 contracts change hands -- mostly at the ask price, suggesting they were bought. Plus, volume has exceeded open interest at both strikes, confirming our suspicions of newly added last-minute bets. By purchasing the calls to open, the traders are expecting FSLR to finish the session north of these strikes.
Those expectations aren't outside of the realm of possibilities, with the shares of FSLR last seen 9.1% higher in the $15.86 ballpark. Bolstering the equity was news that the firm reached an agreement with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works to resume construction at its 230-megawatt solar-power farm in Antelope Valley. When completed, the power plant is expected to generate electricity for about 75,000 homes.
However, this week's spike in weekly call volume runs counter to the broader trend. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock sports a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.25 -- in the 76th percentile of its annual range. Or, simply put, options players have bought to open FSLR puts over calls at a faster-than-usual clip during the past couple of weeks.
Elsewhere, just three analysts offer up "buy" or better ratings, compared to 23 brokerage firms doling out "hold" or worse opinions. Likewise, short interest accounts for more than 36% of the stock's total available float, and would take about four sessions to unwind, at FSLR's average daily trading volume.
Should FSLR continue to flex fundamental and technical muscle -- the stock is on pace to end north of its 10-week moving average for the first time since mid-February -- a reversal in sentiment could translate into a contrarian advantage for the shares.