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Shares of Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd. (EXM - 2.03) have rallied today, after the company reported stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue, and announced that it has inked an agreement to defer loan payments of up to $100 million through 2016. This news likely sparked an uptick in call activity, as more than 1,400 of these options have been exchanged so far, which is five times the equity's expected intraday volume. Most of the action has centered around the near-the-money March 2 strike, where close to 1,100 calls have crossed -- the bulk of them at the ask price, pointing to buyer-driven activity. Currently, this option carries peak call open interest of 4,083 contracts, making it hard to discern whether new positions are being opened here ahead of expiration.
This rise in call volume goes against EXM's bearish grain. The Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) sits at 1.11, confirming that puts comfortably outnumber calls among options scheduled to expire in three months. This ratio ranks in the 82nd percentile of its annual range, which means that short-term options players have been more put-heavy toward the stock just 18% of the time during the last 52 weeks.
Furthermore, the marine transportation concern sports a 10-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) put/call volume ratio of 5.91, indicating that puts bought to open have outnumbered calls by nearly six to one during the past couple of weeks. This ratio registers in the 91st annual percentile, conveying that traders have been snapping up bearish bets over bullish at a much faster-than-usual pace.
From a technical perspective, EXM has had a great start in 2012, having added roughly 41% year-to-date, and besting the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by more than 16% during the past 40 sessions. On the charts, the stock is poised to finish the week atop its 32-week moving average, which has served primarily as resistance January 2011.
In the afternoon hours of the session, the equity is up by about 4% to explore the $2.03 region.