Auto Stocks Struggling After Earnings; Drug Stock Hits New High

Ford short sellers may be using calls to hedge

by Josh Selway

Published on Jul 25, 2019 at 2:37 PM

Stocks are trading lower today in another big day for earnings. Automakers Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and Tata Motors Limited (ADR) (NYSE:TTM) are two names trading in the red, while pharmaceutical concern AstraZeneca plc (NYSE:AZN) is in positive territory. Let's take a closer look at the shares of F, TTM, and AZN.

Ford Stock Sinks as Restructuring Efforts Weigh

Ford stock is one of the biggest losers on the Street today, last seen near session lows down 8% at $9.50, setting it up for its worst day in nearly three years. Investors are selling the stock following a weak quarterly earnings update and soft outlook, mainly due to the company's restructuring efforts. This sends shares sharply below the recent support of their 50-day moving average, though their year-to-date lead is still a solid 23.9%.

There was unusually heavy call buying on the car name coming into today, with the 10-day call/put volume ratio at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Cboe Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) of 4.54 ranking in the 98th annual percentile. Some of this could have been from recent short sellers hedging their positions around earnings, since short interest jumped 16.6% in the most recent period.

Put Traders Cheer More Tata Motors Weakness

The shares of India's TTM have dropped 2.9% to trade at $10.69, to trade near 52-week-low territory. The company's quarterly loss was larger than expected, with the weakness stemming from weak car sales in India and Brexit uncertainty. Tata Motors stock has dropped almost 32% in the past three months, and options traders are well positioned for more downside.

That is, the Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) comes in at 2.33. Not only does this show put open interest more than doubles call open interest among contracts expiring within three months, but its annual percentile rank of 92% shows such a preference for short-term puts over calls is quite unusual. In particular, there was heavy open interest at the front-month August 10 and 11 puts.

Oncology Business Boosts AZN Stock to New High

Shifting to the healthcare space, AZN stock has gapped to a record high, topping out at $43.51 earlier, last seen just below this mark on the day, up 6.3%. The drugmaker's cancer treatments had a strong quarter, helping the company raise its full-year sales outlook.

By just looking at the charts, AstraZeneca has been a volatile name to own in recent years, but it wasn't a major target of options traders leading up to today. Overall open interest on the equity comes in at just the 6th annual percentile. Today, however, options volume is accelerated, and the most popular contract by far is the October 42.50 put, where new positions are being opened.

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