2 Construction Stocks Drilled With Downgrades

The brokerage firm also cut CAT's price target

by Karee Venema

Published on Sep 12, 2019 at 10:17 AM
Updated on Sep 12, 2019 at 10:23 AM

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) and Deere & Company (NYSE:DE) were both downgraded to "market perform" from "outperform" at Wells Fargo, which said it believes "U.S. construction equipment demand is at or near peak," and that slow-to-flat growth in other divisions of the companies "will put downward pressure on earnings power." The brokerage firm also cut its CAT price target to $143 from $150, while maintaining its $170 price target on DE stock.

Most analysts are already bearish on CAT, with 10 of 15 calling the Dow stock a "hold" or "strong sell" prior to today. Plus, the average 12-month price target of $142.52 is a slim 7% premium to last night's close.

Elsewhere, several options traders set a short-term floor for the construction stock. The September 121 put saw the biggest increase in open interest over the past two weeks, due mostly to heavy sell-to-open action this past Tuesday, Sept. 10. CAT stock is down 1.7% at $130.77 this morning, but is holding above its 200-day moving average, currently located at $130.17.

DE stock, meanwhile, is off 2.1% at $161.69, holding near the site of its Aug. 1 bear gap. It's been a more volatile-than-usual stretch for the security, per its 30-day historical volatility of 36.6%, which registers in the 73rd annual percentile.

And while analysts are mostly upbeat toward Deere -- two-thirds maintained a "buy" or better rating through last night's close -- options traders have been initiating long puts relative to long calls at an accelerated clip. This is per the stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.57 at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Cboe Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), which ranks above 74% of comparable readings taken in the past year.

Today, it looks like speculators are using call options to bet bearishly on Deere. Amid heavy volume -- the 6,100 contracts traded so far is three times what's typically seen -- the weekly 9/13 165-strike call is most active. Traders appear to be selling to open these weekly calls, betting on DE stock staying south of $165 through expiration at the close tomorrow, Sept. 13.

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