How McDonald's Corporation (MCD) Just Shook Up the Options Pits

MCD hit a record high after reporting earnings, to the dismay of some option buyers

by Kirra Fedyszyn

Published on Jan 25, 2016 at 2:58 PM

Fast-food blue chip McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) is fresh off a new all-time high of $121.90, after reporting quarterly earnings and revenue that easily surpassed expectations on the Street. In addition, CFO Kevin Ozan said the company is considering selling a stake in its Japan business, according to Reuters. MCD was last seen at $120.44, up 1.7%, likely to the dismay of recent option buyers.

Heading into today's report, option buyers had been busy scooping up MCD puts at a faster-than-usual clip. In fact, the stock's 50-day put/call volume ratio at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) is in the 94th percentile of its annual range, at 1.08.

The February 115 put saw the most positions opened during the past two weeks, with open interest rising by nearly 10,000 contracts. It looks like the majority of the puts were bought to open, suggesting traders were betting on a short-term dip south of $115. Or, considering the equity has outperformed the S&P 500 Index (SPX) over the last three months, perhaps MCD shareholders were looking for an options hedge to lock in gains.

Despite MCD's technical tenacity, analysts have also been surprising lukewarm. Of the 22 
brokerages providing coverage, 12 currently give MCD a "hold" or "sell" rating. But Nomura did increase its price target on the security by $3 to $138 today, in light of the strong earnings report.

Overall, MCD has put in a strong performance over the past several months, adding 26.8% since the late-August swoon, and up 1.9% so far in 2016. Short interest on the stock fell by 30% during the last two reporting periods, now accounting for just 1.1% of MCD's total available float, likely helping to propel the shares higher. Should analysts follow suit and upgrade their lackluster ratings, or should "vanilla" option bears hit the exits, McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) could soon be marking even more record highs.

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