AK Steel Stock Rebound Stifled by Downgrade

AK Steel has received two price-target cuts this week

Managing Editor
Jan 17, 2019 at 9:07 AM
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The shares of AK Steel Holding Corporation (NYSE:AKS) are down 1.9% in electronic trading, after Clarksons Platou Securities downgraded the steel name to "neutral" from "buy," and trimmed its price target to $3 from $5.10. Earlier this week, Goldman Sachs gave AKS a price-target cut to $2.5 from $4, while noting the initial investor excitement around the Trump administration's steel tariffs has largely faded.

AK Steel stock's channel of lower lows sparked by an October bear gap culminated in a Dec. 26 low of $2.05. As of yesterday's close, though, the shares had rallied to add nearly 20% in 2019, although this momentum appears to have found a ceiling at their 40-day moving average. Year-over-year, AKS has shed 58%. 

Short sellers have been heading for the exits. Short interest fell by 17% in the last two reporting periods to 53.87 million shares, the lowest amount since the Feb. 1 reporting period. AKS' inability to take advantage of this exodus of bearish bets only underscores its technical weakness.

In the options pits, puts have reigned. Looking at data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), traders have bought to open nearly four puts for every call, a ratio that ranks in the 100th annual percentile. 

Those wanting to buy options to bet on AKS' short-term trajectory will have to pay up, though. The security's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility (IV) checks in at 91.2%, in the 99th annual percentile, meaning near-term options are pricing in higher-than-normal volatility expectations.

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