Options Traders Unfazed by American Express Profit Miss

Short-term calls are flying off the shelves

Deputy Editor
Oct 23, 2020 at 10:24 AM
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American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) stepped up to the earnings plate today, and the credit card behemoth reported third-quarter earnings that came in lower than Wall Street's estimated. Revenue was a different story though, coming in above analysts' forecasts. Nevertheless, the shares of AXP are down 2.1%, last seen trading at $102.55. 

After brushing $116 on June 5, AXP was quickly rejected by its 320-day moving average and traded as low as $89.58 just one month later. Since then, that trendline has stymied rallies in September and October, while the $96 level has stepped up as support. Longer term, AXP is now down 17% in 2020.

The options pits are full of bearish activity. This is per American Express stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.86 at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Cboe Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). This ratio stands in the 77th percentile of readings in its annual range, so while calls may outnumber puts on an absolute basis, puts are being picked up at a quicker-than-usual clip.

Echoing this, AXP's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.52, which stands higher than 94% of readings from the past 12 months, suggesting these short-term option traders have rarely been more put-biased. 

The options pits today are singing a different tune, however, with calls and puts trading at roughly the same rate. In the first hour of trading, over 11,000 calls and 10,000 puts have exchanged hands -- 13 times the intraday average and volume pacing in the highest percentile of its annual range. Most popular today is the weekly 10/30 108-strike call, followed by the 110-strike call from the same series.

Amid a post-earnings volatility crush, now looks to be an affordable time to jump on the options bandwagon, too. American Express stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 38% sits in the 19th percentile of all other readings from the past year -- a boon for premium buyers.

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