Wells Fargo & Co (WFC) Slide Catches the Eye of Put Players

Put players are piling on plunging Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC)

by Karee Venema

Published on Feb 3, 2016 at 3:38 PM

Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC) is following its sector peers lower today, in the wake of some bearish brokerage attention. Specifically, J.P. Morgan Securities cut its price target on the stock to $57 from $59. Also pressuring the shares is a sharp drop in 10-year Treasury yields and news the company has reached a $1.2 billion settlement with the Department of Justice over bad mortgages. Elsewhere, the financial firm staunchly denied it is looking to buy assets off of Credit Suisse Group AG (ADR) (NYSE:CS). Against this backdrop, put players are piling on WFC, with the contracts crossing at 1.8 times the average intraday rate.

Option traders have shown particular interest in the February 46.50 and 47 puts, where all signs suggest new positions are being purchased, as confirmed by Trade-Alert. By buying to open these puts, speculators expect WFC to sink below the strikes by the close on Friday, Feb. 19 -- when front-month options expire.

Today's activity isn't unusual for WFC, considering put buyers have been setting up camp for some time. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), for instance, the security's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.01 rests higher than 82% of all comparable readings taken in the past year.

Outside of the options pits, sentiment is tilted in a decidedly different direction. In fact, this morning's negative analyst note is relatively rare, considering 15 out of 21 brokerages maintain a "buy" or better rating on WFC, with not a single "sell" to be found. Plus, the average 12-month consensus of $57.86 stands in territory not charted since last August.

Additionally, short interest declined 4.8% in the most recent reporting period, and now accounts for just 0.6% of the equity's available float. It would take just one session to cover these bearish bets, at WFC's average daily trading volume.

Technically, WFC has been spiraling lower, despite the financial sector's relative stability during the recent market whiplash. Since a high of $56.24 on Dec. 17, shares of Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC) have shed 15.3% -- including a 1.6% slide today to $47.65 -- and hit a new annual low of $46.51 earlier.

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