Sector Slump Doesn't Spook United Continental Holdings, Inc. (UAL) Bulls

United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL) is selling off with its sector peers today

by Karee Venema

Published on May 20, 2015 at 1:10 PM

United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL) is following its sector peers into the red today, following a dreary outlook from Southwest Airlines Co (NYSE:LUV). At last check, shares of UAL were down 6.6% at $56.74 -- and on pace to close south of their 200-day moving average for the first time since October. Option traders are seemingly unfazed, with calls changing hands at four times the average intraday pace, and outpacing puts by a 3-to-1 margin.

Receiving notable attention among the short-term crowd is UAL's weekly 5/29 60.50-strike call, where it seems safe to assume new positions are being purchased. In other words, speculators are betting the stock will fill in today's downside gap by next Friday's close, when the weekly series expires. Amid today's plunge, delta on the call has dropped to 0.15 from 0.55 at last night's close, indicating a decreased probability of an in-the-money finish.

Today's uptick in call activity just echoes the withstanding trend. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), UAL's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 3.13 sits in the 77th percentile of its annual range, meaning calls have been bought to open over puts at a faster-than-usual clip.

Even more telling is the equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.35, which ranks lower than 99% of similar readings taken in the past year. In other words, short-term speculators have been more call-heavy toward United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL) just 1% of the time within the last 12 months.

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