A Short-Term Word of Caution on Campbell Soup Stock

CPB stock is has closed negative the day after four out of the last five earnings reports

Managing Editor
Aug 30, 2017 at 3:32 PM
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Though earnings season is winding down, it's far from over, with Campbell Soup Company (NYSE:CPB) set to report earnings tomorrow morning. CPB shares have struggled in the immediate aftermath of earnings in recent quarters, and with historical headwinds also looming, the worst may not be over for the food stock.

CPB stock has averaged a one-day move in either direction of 4% in the session following its last eight earnings releases, per Trade-Alert. However, the moves have been to the downside in four of the last five quarters, including a 2% dip back in May. This time around, the options market is pricing in an even bigger one-day swing of 5.4%. 

What's more, Campbell Soup shares made it to the list of worst stocks to own during Labor Day week, per data from Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White. Specifically, over the past 10 years, the S&P 500 Index (SPX) stock has averaged a loss of 0.81% during the holiday week, ending in positive territory just 20% of the time.

Continued losses could have Campbell Soup stock extending its stay in annual-low territory, with the shares hitting $50.18 earlier today -- their lowest point since November 2015. Longer term, the stock has shed 16% year-to-date, and has underperformed the broader SPX by more than 12 percentage points during the past three months.

This negative price action comes amid a recent surge in short selling. Short interest has increased 69% since mid-February, and the 11.2 million shares currently sold short are at the highest point since July 2016. However, less than 6% of CPB stock's total available float is sold short, meaning there is plenty of room on the equity's bearish bandwagon. 

Looking at the options pits, short-term traders are more put-skewed than usual toward the stock. This is evidenced by CPB's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.71, which ranks in the 82nd percentile of its annual range.

Drilling down, peak front-month open interest of 1,941 contracts is found at the September 50 put. It looks like options traders initiated long positions here to bet on a breach of the round $50 over the next several weeks. For the sake of comparison, the November 57.50 call is CPB's top open interest position, with 5,219 contracts in residence. Data from Trade-Alert suggests many of those positions were bought to open back in April, when the stock was trading around the $56.50 level. 

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