Option Traders Flock to Rallying Southwestern Energy Company (SWN)

Option volume is heating up on Southwestern Energy Company (SWN), after the company announced 1,100 job cuts and crude oil bounced back

Jan 21, 2016 at 2:42 PM
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After falling to a 12-year low on Wednesday, U.S. crude oil is on the rebound today. Southwestern Energy Company (NYSE:SWN) is just one of many oil interests rallying in step with black gold, and the company's cost-cutting plans are acting as an added tailwind. The shares have soared 14.6% to $8.45 in response, and some option traders are rolling the dice on more upside for SWN.

SWN contracts are trading at five times their typical intraday rate, with calls outnumbering puts. The most active option today is the February 11 call, where nearly 7,100 contracts have traded. It looks like many traders are buying to open this option at a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of 48 cents. These speculators will profit the higher SWN rises above $11.48 (strike plus premium paid) before the option expires next month.

Short-term traders were already paying up to bet on SWN. The security's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 123% is in the top percentile of its annual range. What's more, SWN's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility hit an annual high of 124.8%.

Today's preference for calls is nothing new for near-term option traders. SWN has a Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.65 -- lower than 91% of comparable readings from the past year. That means, among options expiring in the next three months, traders have been especially call-heavy lately.

On the other hand, some of the recent call buying -- especially at out-of-the-money strikes -- could be short sellers looking to hedge their bearish positions. Short interest on the stock climbed 41.5% during the last two reporting periods, and now accounts for about one-fourth of SWN's total available float.

One thing that sets Southwestern Energy Company (NYSE:SWN) apart from many other energy stocks is that the shares are now in the black for 2016 -- up roughly 20% so far. The equity touched an 11-year low of $5.00 in mid-December, but is on pace to end the week atop its 10-week moving average for the first time since late May. 

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