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Dissecting a Ratio Put Spread on OpenTable

One bearish speculator employed a ratio vertical spread on OPEN

by 12/22/2011 2:24 PM
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Put volume has spiked on OpenTable (OPEN - 40.85) in the options pits today, as nearly 7,300 of these options have been exchanged so far, representing seven times the equity's expected intraday volume. Most of the action has occurred at the February 2012 32.50 and 40 strikes, where a total of 6,292 puts have crossed the tape.

Upon closer inspection, the data shows that a large block of 4,000 puts traded near the bid price on the 32.50 strike, while a block of 2,000 puts changed hands at the ask price on the 40 strike. This activity signals the initiation of a ratio vertical spread with puts. In this bearish strategy, the speculator is betting that the stock will finish at $32.50 by the time back-month options expire. Because this spread was established for a net debit of $1.15, the maximum profit is limited to $6.35 -- or the difference between the strike prices, minus the net debit paid.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, the maximum risk depends on which direction the stock moves. If the stock goes up, the risk is contained to the net debit paid. Should the stock breach the lower strike, the risk is limited to $33.65, or the sold strike plus the net debit.

A quick look at OPEN's technical performance shows that the equity has shed close to 42% year-to-date, but has outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by more than 18% during the past 20 sessions. On the charts, the stock appears poised to end the week above resistance at its 10-week moving average, a trendline it has not surpassed since early July.

At last check, however, OPEN is down about 4.4% and is trading at $40.85.


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