United States Steel Corporation (X): Are More Losses Ahead?

United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) is trading lower, after the company said it is shutting its Fairfield Works mill in Birmingham, Alabama

by Karee Venema

Published on Aug 17, 2015 at 2:41 PM

There's a lot happening on the Street today -- including an upbeat reading on the housing market, which has helped the broader equities market erase earlier losses. Among specific equities, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) has garnered some bad press, while Kite Pharma Inc (NASDAQ:KITE) is popping on well-received drug news. Elsewhere, United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) is following in the recent footsteps of fellow metal producer Allegheny Technologies Incorporated (NYSE:ATI), after the company announced its latest factory closing.

Specifically, the Pittsburgh-based firm said it is shuttering its Fairfield Works mill in Birmingham, Alabama -- which employs roughly 1,100 people -- in mid-November. In a subsequently released statement, CEO Mario Longhi said the company, which temporarily shut down two plants in Minnesota earlier this year, has "made some difficult decisions over the last year as part of our portfolio optimization."

As noted, the cost-cutting measure has done little to lift X, with the shares off 1.2% at $19.04. Today's negative price action is just more of the same for a stock that's shed 59% since hitting a three-year high of $46.55 last September. What's more, although X tried to stage a rebound after bottoming at an 11-year low of $15.68 last month, the stock was quickly put in check by its 10-week moving average.

In the options pits, traders have been bracing for more losses in recent months. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), X's 50-day put/call volume ratio of 1.44 ranks in the 96th annual percentile. Simply stated, puts have been bought to open over calls at a near-annual-high clip.

Echoing this put-heavy bias is X's gamma-weighted Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.49. In other words, near-the-money put open interest outweighs call open interest among options expiring in three months or less. In the front-month series of options -- which expires at week's end -- a hefty accumulation of 10,386 puts currently resides at the overhead 20 strike.

Elsewhere on the Street, short sellers have been upping the bearish ante in recent weeks. Specifically, short interest jumped 5.6% in the latest reporting period, and now accounts for almost 29% of the security's available float.

Not everyone has climbed on board the bearish bandwagon, though, which could translate into additional losses for United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) down the road. Specifically, six out of 13 analysts still maintain a "strong buy" recommendation on the shares, while the average 12-month price target of $26.33 stands at a 38% premium to current trading levels. Should the shares continue to struggle, a round of downgrades and/or price-target cuts could create headwinds for X.

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