Tesla Motors Inc, Mobileye NV Options Traders Split as Beef Heats Up

Animosity has been growing between Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) and Mobileye NV (NYSE:MBLY)

by Karee Venema

Published on Sep 16, 2016 at 3:11 PM

Things have been going downhill pretty quick between Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) and Mobileye NV (NYSE:MBLY), since the electric car maker and the self-driving tech developer parted ways this summer. Most recently, Tesla said Mobileye encouraged it to "discontinue" the development of its vision chips for the Autopilot system -- with the newest version due out next week, according to CEO Elon Musk -- one day after MBLY said the relationship was severed because TSLA was "pushing the envelope in terms of safety."

Options traders are split on the two stocks, though, which are taking decidedly different routes today. TSLA, for instance was last seen up 1.5% at $203.45 -- back above the highly watched $200 mark. Longer term, though, TSLA stock remains down 14% year-to-date, and has shed more than 22% year-over-year.

Traders both in and out of the options pits have been betting on TSLA to continue this longer-term downtrend, as well. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.26 ranks just 4 percentage points from a 52-week peak. In other words, puts have been bought to open over calls at a near-annual-high clip.

Elsewhere, although short interest is down 23% from its early March record high, it still accounts for a brow-raising 22.4% of TSLA's available float. Plus, it would take more than two weeks to cover these bearish bets, at Tesla Motors Inc's average daily trading volume.

MBLY, meanwhile, was last seen down 2.5% at $43.11. This runs counter to the stock's withstanding trajectory, though, with MBLY up nearly 83% from its Feb. 9 record low at $23.57. Plus, today's retreat has found a foothold atop a trendline that's connected a series of MBLY's higher lows since mid-February.

In the options pits, speculative players have been quick to initiate long calls over puts in recent months. At the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX, MBLY's 50-day call/put volume ratio of 1.64 ranks in the elevated 76th percentile of its annual range. Plus, the equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.92 sits lower than 69% of comparable readings taken in the past year. Simply stated, short-term speculators are more call-heavy than usual toward MBLY.

However, Mobileye NV is also a heavily shorted stock. Although short interest declined 6.6% in the most recent reporting period, it still accounts for a lofty 18.4% of the stock's available float. At MBLY's average pace of trading, it would take nearly nine sessions for shorts to cover their bearish bets.

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