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First Solar Option Players Bet On Additional Upside

FSLR's October 26-strike call was a crowd favorite on Wednesday

by 10/18/2012 10:50 AM
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Option volume accelerated on First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR - 25.07) on Wednesday. Calls emerged as the options of choice, though, with roughly 47,000 contracts -- or two times the expected daily call volume -- crossing the tape. Meanwhile, around 34,000 put contracts changed hands, about 62% above the average daily pace for put options.

A number of last-minute speculators set their sights on the October 26-strike call, which expires at the end of the day tomorrow. The majority of the 4,629 contracts traded at the ask price, and open interest rose overnight, indicating that a portion of yesterday's volume represented buy-to-open activity. By initiating these long calls, traders expect FSLR to finish tomorrow's session north of the $26.38 mark (the strike plus the volume-weighted average price of $0.38), representing a 5.2% premium to FSLR's current perch.

Should the stock fail to topple this breakeven mark, however, these investors can rest easy knowing the most they stand to lose is the initial premium paid. What's more, with implied volatility at this near-the-money strike is currently deflated relative to its 20-day historical (realized) volatility (69% vs. 76.5%), this option is currently priced at relatively affordable levels.

Expanding the scope, it seems bullish bets have been in fashion on FSLR in recent months. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), traders have bought to open 125 calls for every 100 puts during the last 50 sessions. Plus, this ratio ranks in the 84th percentile of its annual range, suggesting calls have been bought to open over puts at a faster-than-usual clip in the last 10 weeks.

The tone toward FSLR is decidedly different outside of the options arena, though. Short interest currently accounts for almost half of the stock's available float. Plus, no fewer than 20 out of 25 analysts maintain a "hold" or worse suggestion toward the equity, and the consensus 12-month price target of $21.31 is a discount to Wednesday's closing price of $25.17.

The split in sentiment is understandable given FSLR's technical backdrop. The stock has seen dramatic moves in recent months, beginning with the unveiling of its second-quarter earnings announcement in early August, after which FSLR soared 21.1% on its well-received report. In fact, despite sitting on a roughly 26% year-to-date deficit, the equity has outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by almost 63 percentage points during the past 60 sessions. This week alone, FSLR has rallied 12.7% on news the company penned deals to build solar panel power plants in Indonesia and Dubai.

At last check, the stock was down 0.5% in early trading to hover near $25.07.


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