Option Bears Pounce On Struggling Biogen Inc

Even as the rest of the market flies high, Biogen Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB) is trading off

by Josh Selway

Published on Jul 10, 2015 at 2:25 PM

While the broader market enjoys an afternoon lift, Biogen Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB) is sitting 3.2% lower at $386.54. The stock is getting a hit after the company announced Douglas Williams, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president of research and development, is leaving. There are also reports that brokerage firm Cowen and Company warned the shares could move lower when the company presents findings for Aducanumab, which is being tested in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on July 22. In the meantime, option volume has picked up in BIIB's options pits.

Rolling up our sleeves, puts are crossing at three times the expected intraday amount. The most popular contract is the weekly 7/10 387.50-strike put, as last-minute bettors look for a bigger move below $387.50 through today's close, when the weekly series expires. BIIB's intraday low currently sits at $381.86. 

According to data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), today's put bias is nothing new. The equity's 10-day put/call volume ratio across this trio of exchanges sits at 1.16, and outranks 76% of all similar readings from the past year. In other words, put buying has outstripped call buying during the past two weeks, and at a faster rate than usual.

This trend is supported by BIIB's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR). The current reading of 1.29 indicates put open interest trumps call open interest among options expiring in three months or less. Plus, this ratio is only 7 percentage points from an annual high. Said simply, the stock's short-term speculators have been much more interested in puts than what's generally seen. 

While there's a clear bearish skew in the option pits, analysts are split on Biogen Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB). Eleven brokerage firms call the shares a "buy" or better, while eight others say they're just a "hold." However, at $476.38, BIIB's average 12-month price target represents a roughly 23.2% premium to current levels. 


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