Weather Woes Shake These 2 Airline Stocks

DAL and SAVE are lower today as storms cause flight delays and cancellations

Dec 28, 2015 at 2:21 PM
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As storms blow across the Midwestern U.S., floods, tornadoes, and snowstorms are wreaking havoc on property, and even causing injuries and deaths. With the busy holiday travel season winding down, airlines are taking a hit, thanks to a huge number of weather-related flight cancellations and delays. Among those declining today are Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) and Spirit Airlines Incorporated (NASDAQ:SAVE).

DAL is trading 0.4% lower at $52.04 today -- but the stock has put in a strong performance recently, outperforming the S&P 500 Index (SPX) by more than 12 percentage points over the last 20 trading days, and hitting a new all-time high of $52.77 less than two weeks ago. It's little wonder that all 10 analysts following the equity rate it a "buy" or better. In fact, the average 12-month price target on DAL is $66.08 -- a 25.2% premium over its record high. Short sellers have backed off, too, with short interest on the stock falling nearly 13% in the past two reporting periods.

Meanwhile, option traders are showing a bearish bias. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), DAL has a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.66, which ranks higher than 90% of all readings in the past year. In light of the stock's long-term uptrend, however, it's possible that some of these put buyers are actually Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) shareholders hedging against a drop. And now is a good time to pick up short-term option hedges at a bargain -- the stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 27% is an annual low.

SAVE is also feeling the pressure, last seen 1.9% lower at $42.52. The airline has given up 44% so far in 2015, hitting a two-year low of $32.73 last month. Since then, the shares have regained some ground, outperforming the SPX by 21.4 percentage points in the last month. Despite its dismal price action this year, seven out of nine brokerages still rate the stock a "buy," without a single "sell" on the books. Short interest accounts for 8.7% of SAVE's available float, however, indicating skepticism among traders.

Likewise, near-term options traders are unusually put-heavy. Spirit Airlines Incorporated (NASDAQ:SAVE) has a Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.64, which ranks higher than 80% of readings in the last 12 months. In other words, speculative players have favored puts over calls by a wider margin only 20% of the time in the last year.

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