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Coinstar Speculators Brace for a Bumpy Ride

Put buyers are expecting CSTR to drop over the next week

by 10/12/2012 10:49 AM
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Bears descended on the shares of Coinstar, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSTR - 44.68) on Thursday, with put volume on the Redbox parent rising to 2.71 times the daily average. More than 4,800 puts changed hands on the stock during the course of the session, compared to only 1,050 calls.

The most active CSTR strike was the October 42.50 put, where 2,179 contracts crossed the tape. The majority traded near the ask price, suggesting they were bought, and open interest here rose overnight by 1,914 contracts. The volume-weighted average price (VWAP) on the October 42.50 put was $0.52, which means put buyers will begin to profit if CSTR falls below breakeven at $41.98 by the time the closing bell sounds next Friday (when front-month options are due to expire).

From a broader view, put options have rarely been in greater demand on CSTR. During the past 10 days, speculators have bought to open 2.22 puts for every call, according to data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). This ratio ranks above 95% of other such readings taken over the last year, indicating a near-peak of bearish speculation on the stock.

CSTR is trading just below breakeven on a year-to-date basis, having pulled back considerably from its July highs in the $72 neighborhood. The shares are bouncing along tentative support at the $44 level, while peak put open interest of 3,780 contracts can be found at the October 45 strike.

 Daily Chart of CSTR since June 2012

For the record, CSTR isn't due to report earnings until Thursday, Oct. 25 -- after the front-month series expires. So, rather than making event-based bets, yesterday's put buyers are probably just looking for a short-term move lower by the shares.

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