Options Bulls Set Their Sights On Sizzling Homebuilder Stocks

Call options are changing hands rapidly on homebuilder stocks KB Home (KBH) and Lennar Corporation (LEN)

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Aug 23, 2016 at 3:20 PM

Homebuilder stocks are flying high this afternoon, following impressive new home sales numbers for July. This technical strength is clear from the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF's (XHB) gains, last seen 1.8% higher at $36.55, but it's also witnessed across a number of stocks -- including KB Home (NYSE:KBH), Lennar Corporation (NYSE:LEN), PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE:PHM), and Toll Brothers Inc (NYSE:TOL). While there's hardly enough time to hit on them all, we'll take a closer look at the price and options action surrounding KBH and LEN.

KBH has jumped 5.1% at $16.17, a continuation of its upside momentum. Specifically, since its January low just above $9, the stock has been stair-stepping its way higher, adding roughly 79%.

Today's gains have sparked an influx of options betting, particularly on the call side of the aisle. At last check, calls have been exchanged at five times the expected intraday rate, with potential buy-to-open activity at the January 2018 20 strike.

This simply echoes what we've seen in recent weeks at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). Looking back over the past 10 sessions, traders have bought to open 5.13 calls for every put. The corresponding call/put volume ratio outstrips four-fifths of all readings taken in the prior year, hinting at a healthier-than-usual bullish appetite among options speculators of late.

It's a similar story among LEN options traders. Calls are running in the 98th percentile of their annual range, and trading at five times the expected intraday pace. Meanwhile, the stock's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility earlier touched an annual low of 20.2%.

The most active strike today is the out-of-the-money September 49 call, although it's unclear whether positions are being opened or closed. More broadly speaking, call buyers have been active on LEN, considering the equity's 10-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX call/put volume ratio of 11.16 sits just 6 percentage points from a 52-week peak. What's more, the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) registers at an annual low of 0.40, hinting at an extreme call-skew among short-term traders.

However, Lennar Corporation's technical case isn't quite as strong as that of its fellow homebuilder. Despite being up 3.2% at $48.05, the shares are sitting south of their year-to-date breakeven mark at $48.91. In fact, last month's breakout attempt stalled around that level, suggesting the stock could be headed for a short-term speed bump.

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