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Put volume skyrocketed on Alcatel Lucent SA (NYSE:ALU - 1.17) during the course of Wednesday's session, with approximately 12,000 contracts crossing the tape. This surge of activity represented about 18 times the average daily put volume for the telecom stock. Meanwhile, fewer than 1,200 calls were traded on ALU.
The vast majority of this put action took place at ALU's January 2013 1.50-strike put, where 10,062 contracts were exchanged. About 80% of these puts crossed near the ask price, suggesting they were purchased, and open interest at this strike swelled overnight by 8,004 contracts. So, it seems safe to say that new bearish bets were opened on ALU yesterday.
By purchasing these January 1.50 puts, bears are looking for ALU to deepen its downtrend during the next six months. The stock has already plummeted about 79% over the past year, including a drastic bearish gap suffered earlier this week. Now, the shares are trading well below former support in the $1.50 area.
The sudden spike in ALU put volume may be related to a short-selling ban on the stock, which was hit hard earlier this week after providing dismal financial guidance. By purchasing longer-dated put options, bearish traders can place their bets on future losses for ALU, even while shorting is temporarily off-limits.