eBay Bears Could Be In for a Post-Earnings Shock

eBay hit an all-time high earlier this month, and is now testing key support

Managing Editor
Oct 17, 2017 at 3:23 PM
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Online auction site eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY) hit an all-time high earlier this month of $39.28, but has since pulled back to a critical technical level that could provide key support. With the company's third-quarter earnings scheduled for release after the market closes tomorrow, Oct. 18, the stock could be set to bounce from this significant chart region -- but options traders appear to be bracing for the worst.

According to Trade-Alert, in fact, today's EBAY put volume of 19,248 contracts is pacing in the 95th percentile of its annual range. The most popular strikes are EBAY's October 37.50 and 35.50 puts, where one trader appears to be initiating a bear put spread ahead of earnings. At last check, EBAY is down 0.9% at $37.43, so this speculator is looking for a post-event pullback from the shares.

This skew toward puts continues a recent trend for eBay stock. Data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) yields a 50-day put/call volume ratio of 0.93, which ranks in the 96th annual percentile. This indicates options traders have preferred puts over calls by a wider-than-usual margin during the past 10 weeks.

The options market is currently pricing in a daily post-earnings move of 7.3% for EBAY -- not far off from its average after-earnings move of 7.7% over the past eight quarters. For what it's worth, the e-commerce company's October earnings announcements have tended to prompt particularly dramatic stock moves; EBAY rallied 13.9% the day after its October 2015 report, and fell 10.8% immediately following its October 2016 results.

Ahead of Wednesday night's report, the stock is well-positioned on the charts. EBAY shares are currently docked right near $37.50, which marked the July high before switching roles to support a late-September pullback. This area is also home to EBAY's rising 40-day moving average, which could further reinforce support here.

Daily Chart of EBAY Since Jan 2017 With 40MA

Meanwhile, despite the stock's solid year-to-date gain of 32.3%, analysts aren't buying the EBAY rally. Out of the 25 brokerage firms following the stock, 15 rate it a "hold" or "sell."

With both analysts and options traders adopting a bearish stance on EBAY, even as the stock explores new highs and tests compelling chart support, this name looks intriguing from a contrarian perspective ahead of earnings. An upside surprise on earnings could spark an unwinding of bearish sentiment, which could translate into some rapid gains for the security.

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