United Airlines Stock Could Have a Grounded Month

There's ample room for a change of sentiment towards the stock

Deputy Editor
Apr 5, 2022 at 2:50 PM
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After a rocky start to the year, airline operator United Airlines Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:UAL) got things moving with monthly wins of 3.5% and 4.4% in February and March, respectively. The latter month saw United Airlines stock stage a comeback off of two-year lows near the $30 level, which took place after Russia's invasion of Ukraine put a dent on the airline sector as a whole. Today, however, UAL was last seen down 2.1% to trade at $44.57, bringing the equity dangerously close to breeching its year-to-date breakeven mark. Investors may want to prepare for a continued bumpy ride ahead, as April has a proven track record as a period of underperformance for the stock.  

UAL Chart April 5

Digging deeper, the equity just showed up on Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White's list of 25 S&P 500 stocks with the worst returns in April. According to this data, UAL has ended the month lower seven times over the past 10 years, averaging a drop of 4.4%. A similar move from the security's current level of trading would put the equity at $42.61. 

There's room for a change in sentiment among covering brokerages. While eight of the 14 analysts recommend a "hold" or worse, six still rate UAL a "strong buy" or "buy."  What's more, the 12-month consensus price target of $54.33 is a hefty 22.5% premium to current levels. All of this leaves the equity open to a round of downgrades and/or price-target cuts in the near future.

Short sellers have piled on recently, too, with short interest up 48.5% in the last reporting period. The 20.21 million shares sold short now make up 6.3% of the stock's current available float. 

A further unwinding of optimism in the options puts could send the shares even lower. United Airline stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.55 sits in the 19th percentile of readings from the past 12 months. This indicates short-term traders have rarely been more call-biased.

For those still looking to play UAL's next move, options look like the way to go. The equity's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 49% stands higher than only 20% of readings from the past 12 months, indicating option players have rarely priced in lower volatility expectations. 


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