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Bearish Options Players Insure Themselves with XL Group Puts

XL put volume balloons following a senior management change

by 1/17/2012 3:51 PM
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XL Group plc (XL - 20.09) announced the appointment of Alvaro Salamanca as CEO of its insurance operations in Mexico this morning, but the news has done little to sway bears from the stock today. More than 1,700 puts have been exchanged so far, which is quadruple the equity's expected intraday volume. Close to 1,400 of these puts were traded at the out-of-the-money February 19 strike -- over half of them at the ask price, suggesting they were bought. This option is currently home to peak put open interest of just 420 contracts, pointing to a fresh batch of new positions at this strike.

However, this uptick in put volume is unusual for XL. The 10-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) call/put volume ratio checks in at a whopping 54.08, confirming that calls bought to open have outnumbered puts by more than 54 to one during the past couple of weeks. In fact, this ratio ranks in the 99th percentile of its annual range, signaling that traders have been snapping up bullish options over bearish at an almost annual-high pace.

Despite this bullish bias surrounding XL among options traders, more than half of the analysts following the insurance concern seem to feel lukewarm, at best, toward the stock. According to Zacks, only eight "buy" or better ratings have been doled out, compared to 10 "holds" and zero "sells."

Examining XL's technical performance, the equity has gained 1.7% year-to-date, but has shed 14% over the past 52 weeks. On the charts, the stock appears to be testing resistance at its 10-week and 32-week moving averages. In the final hour of the session, XL is down about 0.8% to trade at $20.09.


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