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Starbucks Option Players Make Bearish Predictions

SBUX's weekly 50-strike put is being bought to open today

by 12/4/2012 2:47 PM
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Traders are brushing off this morning's bullish brokerage note for Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX - 51.35), with the stock wallowing in the red at last check. This negative price action hasn't gone unnoticed by option players, who are preferring puts over calls in today's session. Looking at the numbers, roughly 11,000 put contracts have crossed the tape, compared to around 10,000 calls.

Short-term speculators have turned their attention to SBUX's weekly option series, specifically, the stock's Dec. 7 50-strike put. A healthy portion of the nearly 3,800 contracts traded have crossed at the ask price, and implied volatility was last seen eight percentage points higher -- two indications of buy-to-open activity.

By initiating these out-of-the-money puts, the speculators are betting on SBUX to finish the week (when the options expire) south of the $49.61 mark (the strike minus the volume-weighted average price [VWAP] of $0.39). This represents a 3.4% drop from current levels.

This penchant for long puts is par for the course for SBUX option players, though, per data at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). The stock's 50-day put/call volume ratio of 0.61 ranks higher than 62% of other such readings taken during the past year. In other words, bearish bets have been scooped up over bullish at an accelerated clip in recent months.

Technically, SBUX has tacked on roughly 16% during the past 52 weeks. On a relative-strength basis, the stock has outpaced the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by more than nine percentage points in the last 40 sessions. From a longer-term perspective, the security has been ferried higher by its 80-week moving average since July 2009.

As mentioned, though, SBUX has fallen victim to today's broad-market headwinds. The stock was last seen 0.8% lower, hovering near $51.35. Should the stock fail to breach the aforementioned breakeven level by Friday, the most today's put buyers stand to lose is the initial premium paid.


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