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How Speculators Are Playing the Apple Inc. (AAPL) Pullback

AAPL traders are shorting the stock and buying puts

by 11/13/2012 12:27 PM
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Bearish traders have been asserting themselves in recent weeks, as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL - 546.00) continues to spiral lower. Not only has short interest in AAPL increased noticeably over the past several reporting periods, but speculators are using options to play further downside in the stock (and/or protect their stock holding).

At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), puts have been bought to open at an increasing pace. The 10-day put/call volume ratio has risen from 0.59 on Sept. 21 (when AAPL pegged a new all-time high) to its current reading of 0.72. The ratio is now seven percentage points shy of an annual peak, suggesting the fervor for puts has rarely been more apparent during the past year.

It isn't cheap for these put buyers to stock up, either. Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) has been creeping higher over the last couple of weeks, and currently stands at 31%, in the 52nd annual percentile. While this is an average reading, it's notable that the SVI has been moving higher, indicating that premiums have been increasing among short-term options.

Elsewhere, it's no surprise that bearish speculation is increasing outside of the options pits. There are now 16.9 million AAPL shares sold short, bringing short interest to a two-year peak. On a relative basis, however, this still accounts for less than 2% of the stock's massive float.

Chart

Today, the most-active AAPL option is the out-of-the-money November 540 put, which has seen more than 13,000 contracts trade compared to open interest of fewer than 11,000. With roughly 40% of the volume trading at both the bid and the ask prices, this is likely a mixture of new puts being purchased and old puts being sold to close. The November puts expire on Friday, so traders going long these options expect AAPL to dip about 1% between now and then.


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