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It seems option traders are betting on a pullback for NIKE, Inc. (NYSE:NKE - 53.67), as evidenced by today's appetite for short-term puts. In afternoon trading, the athletic apparel concern has seen about 15,000 puts change hands -- a 67% increase compared to average volume levels. Meanwhile, just over 5,900 NKE calls have crossed the tape.
Most popular is the January 2013 52.50-strike put, which has seen about 6,700 contracts exchanged. Three-quarters of the volume has crossed at the ask price, and implied volatility was last seen 7.3 percentage points higher, signaling buy-to-open activity.
By purchasing the puts to open, the traders are anticipating a short-term retreat for NKE. More specifically, the puts crossed at a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $0.16, meaning the buyers will make money if NKE breaches the $52.34 level (strike minus VWAP) by Friday's closing bell, when January-dated options expire. However, even if NKE extends today's upward momentum through the end of the week, the most the speculators can lose is the premium paid at initiation.
From a broader sentiment standpoint, today's preference for puts is just more of the same for NKE. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), investors have bought to open almost three puts for every call during the past two weeks. In fact, the equity's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 2.84 ranks in the 88th percentile of its annual range, suggesting option players are initiating bearish bets over bullish at a faster-than-usual clip.
As a result, the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) stands at a lofty 2.65, indicating that puts nearly triple calls among options expiring within three months. Even more telling, perhaps, this ratio rests at a 12-month peak, suggesting short-term options players haven't been more put-heavy during the past year.
At last check, the shares of NKE have tacked on 0.9% to wink at the $53.67 level. Since grazing the $45 level in mid-November, the security has advanced roughly 19% atop its 10-day and 20-day moving averages.