2 Retailers That Could Heat Up for the Holidays

Retail stocks Signet Jewelers Ltd. (NYSE:SIG) and American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO) could enjoy a post-Christmas rally, if history is any guide

Dec 21, 2016 at 3:29 PM
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Like most other sectors, retail has been hot since the election, with the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) barreling through chart congestion to hit a fresh annual high of $48.26 on Dec. 8. Of the 65 stocks under our "retail" umbrella, 60% are trading north of their 80-day moving averages, yet short interest remains elevated, according to Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White. Against this backdrop, we're taking a look at two retail names that could outperform after Christmas -- if history is any indicator -- and spook the shorts: Signet Jewelers Ltd. (NYSE:SIG) and American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO).

SIG has moved higher the week after Christmas in seven of the past eight years -- a record beat by only one other stock -- averaging a gain of 1.14%. Since touching a two-year low of $72.65 in late September, the shares of SIG have rallied more than 30% to sit at $94.76, breaking out of a channel of lower highs that started late last year. What's more, SIG recently overtook its 200-day moving average, and is attempting to climb back above the formerly supportive $95 area.

SIG chart Dec 21

Seeing as SIG has outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by more than 21 percentage points in the last 60 sessions, it's not surprising to find shorts already hitting the exits. Short interest depleted by 18.2% during the past two reporting periods, yet still accounts for more than 21% of SIG's total available float. In fact, it would take nearly six days to buy back the rest of these bearish bets, at the stock's average pace of trading -- plenty of fuel for more upside.

Some of those shorts may be scooping up options insurance, though. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 11.38 is just 2 percentage points from an annual peak. In other words, Signet Jewelers Ltd. (NYSE:SIG) option buyers have scooped up calls over puts at a much faster clip than usual during the past two weeks.

AEO, on the other hand, hasn't enjoyed the so-called "Trump rally" as much as its peers. The stock was chugging higher after the election, and bumped up against familiar resistance in the $19 area, only to be drop-kicked by an ugly same-store sales forecast on Nov. 30. A valiant recovery effort was made in early December, but the shares have ultimately lost steam to test familiar support in the $16-$16.50 neighborhood.

AEO Dec 21

However, like SIG, AEO tends to do well in the week after Christmas. The stock has ended the week higher in eight of the past 10 years, averaging a gain of 1.24%.

Wall Street, though, isn't optimistic. The stock's 10-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX put/call volume ratio of 3.43 indicates more than three AEO puts have been bought to open for every call during the past two weeks. Plus, this ratio is in the 79th percentile of its annual range. Likewise, AEO sports a Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.17 -- higher than 90% of all other readings from the past year, indicating near-term option players have rarely been so put-skewed.

Meanwhile, short interest represents 23.3% of American Eagle Outfitters' (NYSE:AEO) total available float. At the stock's average daily trading volume, it would take more than a week to repurchase these pessimistic positions. Should AEO enjoy its typical post-Christmas rally, a sharp move north could spook the lingering shorts.

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