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Premium Sellers See Support for International Game Technology

Speculators are looking for the $15 level to hold through October expiration

by 7/17/2012 10:46 AM
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International Game Technology (NYSE:IGT - 15.58) has drawn the attention of put sellers of late, with put volume rising more than six times the expected level in Monday's trading. During the course of the session, roughly 15,000 puts crossed the tape, compared to only 208 calls.

The most active strike on Monday was IGT's October 15 put, where 15,046 contracts changed hands. One large block traded at the bid price of $0.95, indicating that sellers were responsible for the majority of the volume. Open interest on the October 15 put rocketed overnight by 15,040 contracts, confirming that new bets were added at this back-month strike. By writing the puts to open, the sellers are expecting IGT to finish north of $15 when October expiration rolls around. In this best-case scenario, the puts will expire worthless, and the sellers can pocket the initial premium received from the sale -- which represents the maximum potential reward on the play.

This options activity seemed to coincide with IGT's recent bounce from the $15 mark, which has emerged as a technical backstop over the past couple of weeks since the stock's June 14 bounce higher on news of a new stock buyback plan. Should the shares solidify more closes above this level, additional option bulls could take this as a sign of a potential turnaround for the electronic gambling games maker, which is sitting on a modest 11.1% year-to-date deficit.

From a sentiment standpoint, though, some traders appear to betting on an imminent decline for IGT. Short interest surged 194% over the past two reporting periods, and now makes up a healthy 7.7% of the stock's available float. At the security's typical pace of trading, it would take more than a week to buy back all of these bearish bets.

It's worth noting that the Reno-based company is expected reveal its fiscal third-quarter earnings next Tuesday, July 24, which could explain the uptick in both short selling and sell-to-open activity. In three of its last four earnings events, IGT has met or exceeded Wall Street's profit expectations, possibly boding well for a continued stay above $15.


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