Bearish Sentiment Ramps Up on PepsiCo Stock Before Earnings

Long puts have been popular and short interest has surged

Josh Selway
Jul 9, 2018 at 11:17 AM
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PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ:PEP) will be in focus before the open tomorrow, when the company will release its second-quarter earnings results. PEP stock actually posted its best post-earnings performance in at least two years back in April when it popped 2.1%, which also marked a third straight positive earnings reaction. In the past two years overall, the beverage giant has averaged a slim 0.7% swing the day after earnings, but this time around the options market is pricing in a much bigger move of 3.5% for tomorrow's session.

Taking a broader view of recent options data on PepsiCo, sentiment seems to be leaning bearish. For example, the equity's 10-day put/call volume ratio across the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) is an even 1.00, which ranks in the 88th annual percentile. In other words, put buying has been unusually popular in recent weeks, relative to call buying.

Plus, the largest increase in open interest during that two-week time frame occurred at the July 115 call -- but activity was almost exclusively sell-to-open. This suggests traders are expecting PEP shares to hold below $115 through the close on Friday, July 20, when front-month options expire, or they're betting on a post-earnings volatility crush. Taking a quick peak at today's trading, the most popular contract is the weekly 7/13 110-strike call, where new positions are being opened.

Bears have certainly been taking action outside the options pits, with short interest exploding on PepsiCo this year. In just the last two reporting periods the number of shares held by short sellers increased by 83% to 12.5 million -- the most since late 2015.

Analysts, though, have mostly remain bullish. The majority of those in coverage still have "buy" or "strong buy" ratings on the stock, and the average 12-month price target stands up at $114.74. In fact, Jefferies just this morning upped its price target to $103. At last check, the security was trading down 1.1% at $108.35, consolidating just below potential resistance from the 160-day moving average and a 50% Fibonacci retracement of its year-to-date high to low.

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