Weight Watchers International, Inc. (WTW) Option Traders Bug Out

WTW options are on fire as the stock tanks

by Kirra Fedyszyn

Published on Jan 8, 2016 at 3:20 PM

With 2016 underway, many are looking for new ways to make progress on their resolutions to get healthy and fit. And one company that should clearly stand to benefit from the January diet frenzy is Weight Watchers International, Inc. (NYSE:WTW). However, disturbing allegations have WTW down 24.2% at $14.94, and options traders are going nuts.

Why the major slump? It's not a case of early resolution breaking. More likely, investors are feeling extra wary after a New York woman found what appears to be a cicada in her "Smart Ones" lunch, part of the Weight Watchers product line. Unfortunately, insects are not generally part of a typical low-calorie diet (unless, perhaps, you are part of Oregon's militia standoff).

Option traders have been generally bullish lately. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock sports a 10-day call/put volume ratio of 1.52 -- higher than over two-thirds of the past year's readings. 

However, nearly 42% of WTW's available float is currently sold short, accounting for about seven days' of trading, at WTW's average daily volume. As such, some of the recent call buying -- especially at out-of-the-money strikes -- could be attributable to shorts looking for a hedge.

Today, WTW options are trading at four times their usual intraday pace, with puts handily outpacing calls. The January 2016 15-strike put has seen the most action, with nearly 3,700 contracts traded, and the deep out-of-the-money January 2016 10-strike put is runner-up. WTW hasn't been south of $10 since October, before Oprah sank her teeth in the shares.

But close behind is the weekly 2/5 19-strike call, where it looks like options are being sold to open. That means traders are betting the security will stay below $19 through the option's expiration on Friday, Feb. 5.

Even before today's plunge -- which sent WTW's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility 13.8% higher to 107.1% -- the stock's short-term options were relatively pricey. Weight Watchers International, Inc.'s (NYSE:WTW) Schaeffer's Volatility Index of 52% is in the 99th percentile of its annual range.

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