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Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (QCOR) Traders Brace for a Pullback

QCOR's April and July 25 puts saw buy-to-open activity on Friday

by 2/19/2013 10:18 AM
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Put volume accelerated on Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOR - 30.01) on Friday, with the bearishly skewed bets trading at nearly seven times their average daily volume. QCOR's 25 strike was in focus, with speculators eyeing a longer-term struggle for the stock. Specifically, 2,521 contracts crossed at the April 25 put, while the July 25 put saw 5,062 contracts traded. The majority at each strike went off at the ask price, implied volatility surged, and open interest rose over the weekend -- hinting at buy-to-open activity.

By purchasing the out-of-the-money April 25 put for a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $1.91, traders expect QCOR to finish below breakeven at $23.09 (strike less VWAP) by the close on Friday, April 19, when the options expire. At the close on Friday, delta for this put was docked at negative 0.28, suggesting a roughly 1-in-4 chance this option will finish in the money by expiration.

Meanwhile, the July 25 puts were exchanged for a VWAP of $3.55, placing breakeven at $21.45, or a 28.5% drop from current levels. While this seems like a relatively steep slide, moves of this magnitude are not out of the question per QCOR's historical volatility, which is perched at 38.3% on a three-month basis. Should the equity fail to breach either breakeven mark by the respective expiration dates, the most the put buyers have risked is the initial premium paid.

On the charts, QCOR has made up some solid ground in recent months, with the shares up 74% since hitting an annual low of $17.25 on Sept. 27. Additionally, the equity has enjoyed a foothold atop the aforementioned $25 mark since mid-October. More recently, the stock's 10- and 20-day moving averages made a bullish cross in early February, suggesting an additional layer of support could be emerging.

In light of this strong technical showing, Friday's rush toward out-of-the-money puts could simply represent shareholders protecting profits against a potential pullback. With protective put buyers being shareholders first and foremost, though, they won't mind that QCOR jumped around 4.7% right out of the gate today, and was last seen lingering near $30.01.


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