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The shares of Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL - 11.42) have suffered along with the broader equities market today, and it looks like more than a few options speculators are expecting even more downside for the tech concern. In afternoon trading, DELL has seen roughly 51,000 puts cross the tape -- about 10 times its average intraday put activity. Meanwhile, just over 10,000 DELL calls have changed hands.
Nearly all of the action has centered on the out-of-the-money September 10 put, which has seen more than 30,200 contracts traded on open interest of 1,217, pointing to a flood of fresh initiations. Plus, 98% of the puts traded at the ask price, suggesting they were bought. By purchasing the puts to open, the investors are betting on DELL to retreat into single-digit territory within the next couple of months.
However, pessimistic positions have become par for the course for DELL. During the past 10 sessions on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock has racked up a put/call volume ratio of 1.07. What's more, this ratio stands higher than 70% of all others taken during the past year, implying that option buyers have initiated bearish bets at a faster-than-usual pace during the past couple of weeks.
Likewise, the security's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.19 indicates that puts outnumber calls among options expiring within three months. Plus, this ratio registers in the 72nd percentile of its annual range, implying that near-term options players are more put-heavy than usual.
Despite DELL's journey into new-low territory -- the stock touched a two-year nadir of $11.39 today -- not everyone on the Street has joined the bears' club. Currently, the security boasts 10 "strong buys" and one "buy" rating from analysts, compared to 13 lukewarm "holds" and not a single "sell" or worse suggestion. Should DELL continue its downward trajectory, this optimistic analyst backdrop leaves the stock vulnerable to potential downgrades.
At last check, DELL has trimmed its deficit to 3.1%, with the shares now exploring the $11.42 level. The company is slated to unveil its second-quarter earnings report on Aug. 21.