Outperforming Chipmaker Downgraded at Morgan Stanley

MU shareholders may have been using puts to hedge

Managing Editor
May 31, 2018 at 9:57 AM
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Chipmaker Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) is trading lower after the stock received a downgrade at Morgan Stanley. The firm cut its rating on MU to "equal weight" from "overweight," stating they "would rather err on the side of caution" in regards to the stock's future. At last check, the shares are down 5.1% at $59.41.

Long term, MU has been an outperformer on the charts, picking up 94% over the past year, and enjoying support from the 160-day moving average during recent pullbacks. What's more, the stock touched a fresh 17-year high of $64.66 just yesterday. It's not surprising, then, that analysts are mostly bullish, with 20 out of 24 following the stock sporting "buy" or better recommendations -- making Morgan Stanley's downgrade a rare sight. 

Digging deeper, short interest saw a surge of 22% during the past two reporting periods, and now accounts for nearly 6% of the stock's total available float. However, at Micron's average daily trading volume, it would take just two trading days for shorts to cover their bearish bets.

Meanwhile, options activity has been more bearish than normal, too. While call buying has continued to dominate on an absolute basis, puts have seen unusual interest. Take for example the equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR), which at 0.78 stands at an annual high. This means short-term options traders are much less call-skewed than normal on MU. At the same time, some put activity could be from shareholders protecting paper profits by way of options.

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