Kohl's Shorts On Edge After Another Amazon Deal

Options traders have been placing bullish bets on KSS, after the retailer's first collaboration with Amazon was announced earlier this month

Managing Editor
Sep 19, 2017 at 3:08 PM
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Retailer Kohl's Corporation (NYSE:KSS) found itself in the news today, after announcing it would offer free returns on Amazon products at 85 of its stores starting next month. This is the second time Kohl's and Amazon have teamed up. Earlier this month, Kohl's agreed to sell Amazon's smart-home products in 10 of its stores. Below, we will take a look at how Kohl's stock has performed lately, and how option traders are playing the retail name. 

At last check, KSS stock is up 1.6% to trade at $45.58. The retail shares have had a solid run lately, tacking on 30% since skimming their most recent low of $36.50 in mid-August -- up 25%, and well off their June 6 annual low of $35.16. The rally today puts the stock at levels last seen prior to its early January bear gap.

Analyst sentiment remains quite skeptical, though. Of the 13 brokerages covering KSS, 10 rate the stock a "hold" or "strong sell." This indicates there is plenty of room for upgrades, should Kohl's continue its recent rebound.

In addition, KSS stock is heavily shorted. With 35.28 million shares sold short, these bearish bets are at their highest level in at least 15 years, and represent over 20% of the stock's total available float. It would take roughly 11 days for shorts to fully cover their positions, at KSS's average daily trading volume. A capitulation from some of the weaker bearish hands could create tailwinds for the shares.

Meanwhile, in the options pits, there has been an unusual preference for long calls over puts lately. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), KSS sports a 10-day call/put volume ratio of 2.38, which ranks in the 88th percentile of its annual range. Given the amount of short interest levied toward the stock, it's possible short sellers are using the calls to hedge against more upside risk.

Whatever the reason, KSS options are attractively priced. The stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 31% ranks in the 7th annual percentile, suggesting short-term options are pricing in comparatively low volatility expectations at the moment.

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