Bearish Bettors Rocked By Rent-A-Center Buyout Buzz

RCII stock could take aim at its 200-day trendline today

Jun 11, 2018 at 9:18 AM
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Rent-A-Center Inc (NASDAQ:RCII) is in the spotlight on M&A Monday, after the rent-to-own retailer said it received an increased buyout bid from a previous suitor, though no supporting paperwork accompanied the offer. This followed yesterday's announcement that the company had completed its strategic review in which no viable takeover offers were presented. Nevertheless, RCII said it's cost-cutting efforts were "ahead of schedule," and should result in about $70 million in savings this year -- prompting Loop Capital to raise its price target on the stock to $11 from $9.

After closing Friday at $10.11, RCII stock is up 5.3% in electronic trading. This would be just more of the same for the retail shares, though, which have gained 40% since bottoming at an 18-year low of $7.22 last March. In focus today will be the equity's 200-day moving average -- currently located at $10.42 -- which Rent-A-Center hasn't closed north of since late January.

Options traders are likely hoping this momentum fades. The stock's front-month gamma-weighted Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) is docked at a top-heavy 1.45, meaning near-the-money puts handily outweigh calls among front-month options, which expire at this Friday's close. The June 7 and 10 puts are home to peak open interest in RCII's options pits, and data from Trade-Alert suggests most of the 43,523 total contracts open here were bought to open.

This skepticism is seen elsewhere on Wall Street -- which isn't too surprising considering RCII stock is still down 17% year-over-year. Short interest jumped 7.9% in the most recent reporting period to 28.96 million shares, not far from the mid-March multi-year peak. These bearish bets account for almost 80% of the stock's available float, or 24.3 times the average pace of trading.

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