Bears Back Off Activision Blizzard, Inc. (ATVI) Ahead of Earnings

Short interest on ATVI fell sharply ahead of its quarterly earnings report

Feb 10, 2016 at 3:23 PM
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Video game creator Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) is trading 4.8% higher at $30.18, as the company prepares to report fourth-quarter earnings after tomorrow's close. ATVI has moved higher in the session after its past eight quarterly reports, which could explain why some bears are backing down. 

ATVI 
hit an all-time high of $39.93 at the end of December. Since then, the shares have fallen in step with the broader equities market, giving up roughly 22% in 2016, but seem to have found round-number support at $30.

Short interest on ATVI fell by 72.8% during the most recent two-week reporting period -- the second-biggest drop among equities that trade at least a million shares per day or weekly options. These bearish bets now accounts for less than 4% of the stock's available float. Analysts are upbeat, too, with 12 out of 14 giving the equity a "strong buy" rating, compared to just two "holds." 

It's a different story among near-term options traders. ATVI currently has a Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.76 -- higher than 94% of all reading taken in the past year. That means traders are much more put-heavy than usual, among options expiring in the next three months.

Likewise, at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the equity's 50-day put/call volume ratio of 0.56 is in the 90th percentile of its annual range. In other words, option buyers have initiated bearish bets over bullish at a faster-than-usual clip during the past 10 weeks.

Traders buying Activision's short-term options ahead of earnings could be paying substantial premiums for their bets. The security's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 88% is at an annual peak -- meaning the options market is pricing in exceptionally heavy volatility expectations. Specifically, traders are anticipating a one-day move of 14.9%, compared to the stock's average single-session post-earnings gain of 6.5% over the past eight quarters.

Although short sellers have backed off, the lingering skepticism in the options pits could translate into a tailwind for ATVI. If tomorrow's earnings result in another upward move, an unwinding of bearish sentiment among the options crowd could help fuel an extended Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) rebound.

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