Freeport-McMoRan Inc (FCX) and the Million-Dollar Bearish Bet

Freeport-McMoRan Inc's (NYSE:FCX) October 10 puts have been in heavy rotation recently

by Karee Venema

Published on Sep 22, 2015 at 1:08 PM

It's been a tough day for commodity stocks, with both crude oil and precious metals staring at significant losses. Mining magnate Freeport-McMoRan Inc (NYSE:FCX) is no exception, with the shares 0.4% lower at $10.50 -- and fresh off their first foray into single-digit territory since Sept. 4. Against this backdrop, put players are piling into the equity's options pits -- with the contracts trading at two times the average intraday rate -- and one option bear in particular betting big on another move south of $10.

According to Trade-Alert, a massive block of 15,779 October 10 puts was bought to open earlier for $0.68 apiece, resulting in an initial cash outlay of about $1.07 million (number of contracts * premium paid * 100 shares per contract). This is the most the trader stands to lose, should FCX be sitting in double-digit territory at the close on Friday, Oct. 16 -- when front-month options expire. Profit, meanwhile, will accrue with each step south of $10 the stock may take over the next several weeks.

More broadly speaking, today's accelerated put activity is par for the course in FCX's options pits. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the security's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.95 ranks in the 83rd annual percentile. In other words, puts have been bought to open over calls at a faster-than-usual clip in recent weeks.

What's more, the stock's October 10 put has been popular over the past 10 sessions, with nearly 21,300 new positions added. This strike now houses peak put open interest of 34,711 contracts, and per data from the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX, the majority of this action has been of the buy-to-open kind. From a contrarian perspective, this could throw a wrench in the option bears' plan, considering such a lofty accumulation of put open interest can often translate into options-related support for a stock.

Technically speaking, Freeport-McMoRan Inc (NYSE:FCX) has been a long-term laggard, down 68% year-over year. What's more, although the shares have bounced 35% off their Aug. 26 12-year low of $7.76, they continue to struggle against their 10-week moving average -- a trendline that has been ushering FCX lower since late May.

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