Fed, China Behind Caterpillar Stock Upgrade

A dovish Fed and upbeat U.S.-China trade talks are potentially positive catalysts

by Karee Venema

Published on Dec 3, 2018 at 9:51 AM

The shares of Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) have shot up 4.6% to trade at $141.95, after BofA-Merrill Lynch upgraded the construction stock to "buy" from "neutral," and raised its price target to $163 from $140 -- a 20% premium to last Friday's close at $135.67. The analyst in coverage pointed to Fed Chair Jerome Powell's relatively dovish tone on interest rates and upbeat developments in U.S.-China trade talks as potentially positive catalysts.

It's been a rough stretch for Caterpillar stock, which was down nearly 14% year-to-date heading into today's trading. However, today's pop has the shares clearing recent resistance in the $135.75 region -- a 50% Fibonacci retracement of CAT's plunge from its Oct. 3 peak at $159.37 to its Oct. 29 annual low of $112.08.

In spite of the stock's technical troubles, bullish betting has been gaining speed in recent weeks. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the equity's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 1.82 ranks in the 88th annual percentile, meaning calls have been bought to open over puts at a quicker-than-usual clip.

Outside of the options pits, though, short sellers have been ramping up their exposure to the Dow stock, with short interest jumping 77.2% in the two most recent reporting periods to 12.07 million shares. As such, it's possible some of the recent call buying came at the hands of shorts hedging their bearish bets against any upside risk.

Whatever the reason, short-term Caterpillar options are pricing in elevated volatility expectations at the moment. CAT's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility of 35.4% ranks in the 89th percentile of its 12-month range.

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