Is the Tide Shifting on Barrick Gold Corporation (ABX)?

Barrick Gold Corporation (ABX) has had a strong start to the year

Jan 22, 2015 at 10:41 AM
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Barrick Gold Corporation (NYSE:ABX) has been turning higher with the price of gold in recent sessions. In the wake of the European Central Bank (ECB) stimulus announcement, the shares are up another 1% this morning at $12.87, bringing their year-to-date advance closer to 20%. Nevertheless, there's plenty of skepticism surrounding the mining stock -- in the options pits and beyond.

On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), ABX has tallied a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.69 -- which ranks just 6 percentage points from an annual peak. To put things further in perspective, this ratio stood at just 0.12 two weeks ago, indicating put buying has accelerated of late, relative to call buying.

In a similar vein, open interest among options expiring in the next three months is tilted in the direction of puts. Specifically, ABX's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.03 is higher than any other reading from the last 12 months. Prior to January 2015 options expiration last week, though -- when a glut of long-term positions ceased trading -- the SOIR sat at an annual low of 0.25.

Options traders aren't the only ones striking a skeptical stance toward the gold stock. Among the 17 brokerage firms covering ABX, just one has handed out a "strong buy" recommendation, compared to 14 "holds" and a pair of "strong sells."

While it's not surprising that there are doubts on Barrick Gold Corporation (NYSE:ABX) -- the shares have lost one-third of their value year-over-year -- the tide could be shifting. If the stock's recent rebound continues, a capitulation among the option bears and/or a round of upgrades could add fuel to ABX's fire.

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