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The shares of Juniper Networks, Inc. (NYSE:JNPR - 17.92) have added about 11% during the past month, yet the options crowd remains unconvinced of the stock's strength. During the course of yesterday's session, JNPR saw roughly 15,000 puts cross the tape -- about three times both its average daily put volume and the number of JNPR calls exchanged.
Most popular by a mile was the equity's near-the-money August 17 put, which saw more than 11,200 contracts traded -- 74% at the ask price, hinting at buyer-driven volume. Furthermore, put open interest at the front-month strike skyrocketed by more than 9,200 contracts overnight, confirming our suspicions of newly opened positions. By purchasing the puts to open, the investors are expecting JNPR to breach the $17 level within the next few weeks.
From a broader sentiment standpoint, pessimistic positions are nothing new for JNPR. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the security's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.52 stands just seven percentage points from a 52-week peak. In other words, option buyers have been initiating bearish bets over bullish at a near annual-high clip during the past two weeks.
As such, the security's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio has risen to 0.99 -- in the 99th percentile of its annual range. Or, simply put, short-term options traders have rarely been more put-biased toward JNPR during the past year.
In similar fashion, just eight out of 27 analysts consider JNPR worthy of a "buy" or better rating. Meanwhile, the consensus 12-month price target rests at $18.54, implying expected upside of just 5% to JNPR's closing price of $17.58 on Thursday.
In early trading, JNPR has followed the broader equities market into the black, tacking on 1.7% to wink at the $17.88 level. The stock is on pace to notch a second consecutive weekly win over its 10-week moving average, but is struggling to surmount its 20-week trendline, lingering just overhead. This duo of moving averages has capped all but one of JNPR's weekly closes since late February.