Alibaba Stock Pulls Back From Record High Despite Pre-Earnings Bull Notes

Options traders are call-heavy ahead of BABA's earnings

Managing Editor
Jan 29, 2018 at 10:10 AM
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Chinese e-commerce concern Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE:BABA) is seeing an increase of analyst attention this week, just ahead of the company's fiscal third-quarter earnings, scheduled for before Thursday's market open. Also, it was just announced that Alibaba Cloud will be used to monitor and analyze traffic patterns in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur. Plus, investors are digesting headlines of Alibaba's latest investment in electronic vehicles. In response, the e-commerce stock received price-target hikes to $240 from $210 at SunTrust Robinson and to $230 from $210 at Stifel. 

Alibaba stock is trading down 0.8% at $203.67 at last check. This comes after the shares hit a record high of $205.23 on Friday. Looking broader, shares of the China-based company have had an impressive year, doubling in value during the past 12 months, with the 120-day moving average firmly supporting a brief December pullback.

In the options pits, sentiment has been bullish ahead of earnings, with data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) showing BABA with a 10-day call/put volume ratio of 3.09, ranking in the high 88th percentile of its annual range. This suggests calls have been bought over puts at a faster-than-usual clip during the past two weeks.

Analyst sentiment has been overwhelmingly optimistic as well for the equity. All of the 21 analysts following Alibaba stock sport "buy" or "strong buy" recommendations. Plus, the average 12-month price target stands up at $214.46.

Digging deeper, however, shows not everyone is bullish. Short interest on the equity rose almost 11% during the past two reporting periods, and now represents more than 5% of the stock's total available float. In fact, going by pure dollar amount, data from Schaeffer's Quantitative Analyst Chris Prybal reveals that BABA saw the largest increase in short interest over the past two weeks for all optionable equities with an increase of $5.1 billion, compared to just $1.6 billion from the next closest stock Sempra Energy (SRE). At the stock's average daily trading volume, it would now take seven days for short sellers to cover their bearish bets.

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