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Skeptical Speculators Flock to First Solar

One investor appears to be upping the bearish ante on FSLR

by 9/4/2012 2:00 PM
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Option bears are once again bombarding First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR - 19.00) today, with puts flying off the shelves. In afternoon action, the downtrending solar concern has seen roughly 37,000 puts change hands -- more than double its average intraday put activity. For comparison, just around 17,000 FSLR calls have crossed the tape.

Garnering the most attention have been the October 18 and 20 puts, which have each seen more than 5,700 contracts traded. In fact, most of the action changed hands in symmetrical blocks marked "spread."

Specifically, the 18-strike puts crossed at the ask price of $2.10, suggesting they were bought, while the in-the-money puts traded at the bid price of $3.20, implying they were likely sold. However, while volume has exceeded open interest at the near-the-money October 18 strike, pointing to new positions, implied volatility on the 20-strike puts was last seen 1.2 percentage points lower, hinting at liquidations. In other words, it looks like one trader may be rolling down his bearish bets by taking profits on the October 20 puts, and using some of the proceeds to scoop up lower-strike puts.

As alluded to earlier, today's pessimistic positioning merely continues the trend seen on Friday, when put volume skyrocketed in the wake of FSLR's decline. Today, the shares of FSLR have extended their journey into the red, thanks to lingering concerns about potential anti-dumping tariffs in Europe. At last check, the equity has surrendered 4.8% to explore the $19 level, and is testing support atop its 10-week moving average, which has been violated just once since mid-June, on a weekly closing basis.

What's more, a capitulation by the bullish holdouts in the options pits could translate into a contrarian headwind for FSLR. During the past 50 sessions on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock has racked up a call/put volume ratio of 1.36, indicating that traders have bought to open more calls than puts. More importantly, perhaps, this ratio sits just three percentage points from a 12-month peak, suggesting speculators have initiated bullish bets over bearish at a near annual-high clip in recent months.


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