Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) Takes Aim at Online, Last-Minute Shoppers

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) is surrounded by skeptics in the options pits and beyond

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:59 AM

With Christmas just around the corner, retailers are pulling out all the stops to encourage shoppers to choose them. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) is no exception. The big-box retail baron announced earlier it will participate today in national Free Shipping Day -- good news for a growing legion of online consumers.

Unfortunately for WMT shareholders, this news is having little impact on the stock, which is flat on the day at $58.98. Nonetheless, at least one group of option traders is betting on upward momentum into the new year, buying to open the in-the-money February 55 call.

Generally speaking, though, sentiment tilts in a bearish direction when it comes to WMT. The stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.73 across the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) rests in the 85th percentile of its annual range. Likewise, of the 19 analysts tracking the shares, 16 have handed out a tepid "hold" rating.

The company's decision makers are probably hoping a solid holiday season will help the shares shake loose from the skepticism -- and recover from a 31% deficit in 2015. Toward that end, WMT announced earlier its stores will stay open until 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Today's "Star Wars" launch could be a boon to Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), too. Already, the retailer has said searches for the film's toys have increased 200% at Walmart.com.

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