Ulta Stock's Dip Makes for a Pretty Buying Opportunity

Skepticism has been rising toward ULTA, as the retail stock retreats from record-high territory

Karee Venema
Jul 14, 2017 at 7:15 AM
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Ulta Beauty Inc (NASDAQ:ULTA) has been in a strong uptrend since the shares bottomed at a record low near $4 in March 2009. In fact, ULTA stock topped out at a record high of $314.86 on June 5. Since hitting this impressive milestone, the security has pulled back to its rising 320-day moving average -- closing last night at $257.40 -- but if past is precedent, it may be a prime time to bet on the retail stock's next leg higher.

According to data from Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White, following the last three times ULTA shares have pulled back to this trendline after a significant period of trading north of it, they have notched impressive near-term gains. Specifically, the stock was higher each time going one month out, averaging a 9% return.

Options traders, however, have been bracing for more losses for the retail shares. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), speculative players have bought to open 10,441 puts and 5,594 calls over the past 10 sessions. The resultant put/call volume ratio of 1.87 ranks just 8 percentage points from a 52-week peak, meaning bearish bets have been placed relative to bullish at a near-annual-high clip.

And while put open interest is docked at an annual high of 78,849 contracts, this put-bias is especially evident among July options. The equity's top-heavy front-month gamma-weighted Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.56, meaning near-the-money puts outweigh calls among options set to expire at next Friday's close. Specifically, the heavy accumulation of puts at the underfoot July 255 strike could serve as a short-term foothold for the shares, as the hedges related to these bets unwind over the next week.

Plus, now's a relatively affordable time to bet on ULTA's short-term trajectory with options. The stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 27% ranks in the 32nd percentile of its annual range. In other words, lower-than-usual volatility expectations are being priced into near-term Ulta Beauty options -- a potential boon to premium buyers.

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