3 Casino Stocks Hitting the Jackpot

A bullish note on the Macau gaming sector is buoying Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd (ADR) (NASDAQ:MPEL), MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM), and Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE:LVS)

Mar 18, 2016 at 10:50 AM
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Led by big gains at Wynn Resorts, Limited (NASDAQ:WYNN), casino stocks have hit the jackpot after Macquarie upgraded its opinion of the Macau gaming sector to "neutral" from "underweight." This has a number of casino stocks solidly higher -- including Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd (ADR) (NASDAQ:MPEL), MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM), and Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE:LVS) -- while potentially putting bearish option traders on the ropes.

Starting with MPEL, the gaming stock has soared nearly 7% to trade at $17.69 -- in territory not explored since early November. This is just more of the same, considering that during the past two months, the shares have outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by 12.5 percentage points.

That hasn't kept option players from upping the bearish ante on Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, buying to open nearly twice as many puts as calls in recent weeks. Specifically, the stock's 10-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) put/call volume ratio of 1.95 rests just 10 percentage points from an annual peak.

Meanwhile, MGM has advanced 1% at $21.16, bouncing by almost 31% since its two-year low of $16.18 in early February. The stock has also crossed over its 160-week moving average, which has acted as support in the past, and could usher it even higher.

In the options pits, MGM Resorts International sports a 10-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX put/call volume ratio of 0.77. While this means more calls have been bought to open than puts on an absolute basis, the ratio ranks in the high 82nd percentile of its 12-month range. In other words, option traders have been buying to open MGM puts over calls at an accelerated rate.

Rounding things out, LVS has tacked on 1.7% to trade at $54.26, putting it on track for its first close north of its 80-week moving average since August 2014. Overall, it's been a banner year for the shares, which have surged 24% in 2016.

However, short-term traders have shown a pronounced preference for puts over calls, as evidenced by the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 2.06. Even more significant, Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s SOIR sits at an annual high, with puts more than doubling calls among options expiring in the next three months.

In short, these three casino stocks present compelling contrarian cases, given their strong technicals and weak sentiment backdrops. Should the gaming sector continue to outperform, a capitulation among option bears could create powerful tailwinds.

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