Put Buying Picks Up on Outperforming Gilead Sciences

Buy-to-open put volume has been accelerated on Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) in recent months

Jul 2, 2015 at 1:04 PM
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Put buyers have been active Gilead Sciences, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:GILD) options pits in recent months. In fact, at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), GILD's 50-day put/call volume ratio of 0.61 ranks in the 99th annual percentile. In other words, puts have been bought to open over calls at a faster clip just 1% of the time within the past year.

Drilling down on the front-month series, these traders have been particularly enamored with the July 115 strike, which houses peak put open interest of 14,921 contracts. According to the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX, nearly 7,100 puts have been bought to open here since early May, meaning speculators are expecting GILD to be sitting south of $115 at the close on Friday, July 17 -- when the options expire.

​Regardless of where the stock settles at front-month expiration, put buyers can rest easy knowing the most they stand to lose is the initial premium paid. What's more, those currently purchasing GILD's front-month options are able to do so at relatively tame prices, considering the equity's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 25% sits lower than 79% of all similar readings taken in the past year.

Outside of the options pits, the outlook is more upbeat. Short interest, for example, declined more than 40% in the two latest reporting periods, and these bearish bets currently account for just 2.5% of GILD's available float. Elsewhere, 14 out of 16 analysts covering the shares maintain a "buy" or better rating.

Technically speaking, this optimism is warranted. Year-to-date, GILD has added an impressive 22.5%. More recently, the equity has been consolidating near its 40-day moving average since topping out at a June 24 record high of $123.37. Against this backdrop, it's possible a portion of the recent put activity -- specifically, at out-of-the-money strikes -- is a result of shareholders protecting their paper profits.

This could spell additional gains for the shares in the near term. According to Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White, in the 14 other times this signal has occurred during the past three years, Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) has gone on to average a 21-day gain of 6.7%, and is positive 79% of the time.

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