Puts Pop as Airline Stocks Hit Turbulence

American Airlines and Delta are both lower today as oil prices soar

by Patrick Martin

Published on Jan 3, 2020 at 10:06 AM

Oil prices are skyrocketing amid escalating tensions between the U.S and Iran. Travel stocks -- and more specifically, airline stocks -- are thus exposed to both surging oil prices and geopolitical tensions. This has American Airlines Group Inc (NASDAQ:AAL) and Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) both swimming in red ink this morning, and options traders reacting to it all.

First up is American Airlines stock, which is down 5.1% to trade at $27.61. As the round $30 and 160-day moving average looms overhead, the shares have today breached short-term support at their 80-day moving average. AAL is now staring at an almost 13% 12-month deficit.

Options traders are focusing on puts today. In just the first hour of trading, over 7,000 puts have changed hands, seven times the average intraday amount and volume pacing for the 100th percentile of its annual range. The January 2020 26-strike put is the most popular, with the 27-strike put not far behind.

Delta stock meanwhile is down 3.2% to trade at $57.15. The shares have spent recent weeks consolidating below the $60 level, but at least today's pullback has found a cushion at their 160-day trendline. The security remains up 15% year-over-year, too.

Nevertheless, puts are also popular today for DAL. At last check, more than 4,400 have changed hands, five times the average intraday amount. Leading the charge is the January 2020 56-strike put, with new positions being opened.

The good news for options traders is that both AAL and DAL sport attractively priced premium at the moment. The stocks' Schaeffer's Volatility Indexes (SVI) of 31% and 24% respectively both sit in the bottom 20th percentile of readings from the past year.

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