Transocean LTD (RIG) Option Bear Bets Big on 20-Year Lows

Transocean LTD (NYSE:RIG) fell to its lowest point in 20 years earlier

by Karee Venema

Published on Aug 26, 2015 at 3:02 PM
Updated on Jun 24, 2020 at 10:16 AM

While most equities are eyeing a rebound today -- and others are looking forward to September -- Transocean LTD (NYSE:RIG) has taken a turn for the worse. In fact, the stock hit a 20-year low of $11.26 earlier, and was last seen down 4.8% at $11.59. This is just more of the same for an equity that's shed nearly two-fifths of its value this year, and is sparked by news the company plans to suspend dividend payments as oil wallows near six-year lows.

In the options pits, puts are crossing at nine times what's typically seen at this point in the day, and are outpacing calls by a 15-to-1 margin. Drilling down, more than three-quarters of the day's put activity occurred when two symmetrical blocks of 95,300 contracts changed hands at RIG's November 11 and 12 strikes.

According to Trade-Alert, the higher-strike puts were sold to close -- after initially being opened on Aug. 3, when RIG was trading near $12.30 -- while the lower-strike puts were bought to open. In other words, it looks as if this speculator is rolling down her bearish bet, anticipating lower lows for RIG over the next several months. The stock has not breached $11 since January 1995.

Today's put-skewed session is par for the course in RIG's options arena. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the security's 50-day put/call volume ratio of 5.69 ranks in the 97th annual percentile. Simply stated, puts have been bought to open over calls with more rapidity just 3% of the time within the past year.

Echoing this is RIG's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 8.45. Not only does this show that put open interest outweighs call open interest by a more than 8-to-1 margin among options expiring in three months or less, but it sits just 1 percentage points from a 52-week peak. In other words, speculative traders have rarely been as put-heavy toward RIG as they are now.

In the front-month series, peak put open interest of 39,627 contracts is found at the September 12 strike. According to the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX, the vast majority of positions have been bought to open here since late July, meaning traders were anticipating a move to multi-decade lows. Today, in fact, this is Transocean LTD's (NYSE:RIG) third most-active strike, and it appears some of the activity is of the sell-to-close kind.

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