Wells Fargo Stock Lower After Analyst Cuts Rating

WFC options can be had at a discount, though

Managing Editor
Sep 7, 2018 at 2:08 PM
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Earlier this morning, brokerage firm Macquarie chimed in on Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC), downgrading the banking name to "neutral" from "outperform." The analyst in coverage cited concerns over the company's valuations, noting it prefers sector peer Bank of America (BAC). In response, WFC is down 1% to trade at $57.44.

Wells Fargo stock is now headed toward its third straight losing week. Today's pullback takes the shares below their 40-day moving average, a trendline that had served as support since late June. On the charts, WFC had rallied off its mid-April lows near $50, but breakout attempts have been thwarted by the $60 level. 

Daily Stock Chart WFC

There is still room for more analysts to step to the sidelines. Of the 24 brokerages covering WFC, nearly half still rate it a "buy" or "strong buy." Further, the stock's consensus 12-month price target of $62.31 is an 8% premium to its current perch.

In the options pits, WFC puts have become more popular lately, as evidenced by data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), which shows the security with a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.85, in the elevated 85th annual percentile. This means that although options traders still lean toward calls on an absolute basis, Wells Fargo puts have been purchased relative to calls at a faster-than-usual clip during the past two weeks. 

Echoing this, the equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.04 ranks 4 percentage points from an annual high. This shows that short-term traders have rarely been more put-heavy toward the security in the past year. Digging deeper shows the September 60 put saw the largest increase in open interest during the past two weeks, with nearly 10,000 contracts added.

The good news for options traders is that short-term options are attractively priced right now. WFC's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 19% is in the 11th percentile of its annual range, suggesting near-term options are pricing in relatively low volatility expectations.

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