Puts Hot as Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) Pans New Lows

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) hit a two-year low earlier, after UBS cut its price target

by Karee Venema

Published on Feb 5, 2016 at 2:59 PM
Updated on Feb 5, 2016 at 2:59 PM

Shares of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) have plunged 8.7% to linger in two-year low territory at $159.66, after UBS slashed its price target by $30 to $160 -- the lowest on Wall Street. Specifically, the brokerage firm expressed concern over TSLA's 2016 deliveries due to lower-than-forecast Model X SUV production, as well as high costs associated with selling, general, and administrative expenses and research and development. Against this backdrop, TSLA's options pits are buzzing, and with the stock on the short-sale restricted list, put players have the upper hand.

Overall, volume is running at two times what's typically seen at this point in the day, with 89,000 puts versus 73,000 calls traded. Amid this accelerated activity, TSLA's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility hit a 52-week high of 79.9% earlier. The stock's weekly 2/5 series is hot -- accounting for seven of TSLA's 10 most active options -- with buy-to-open activity detected at the 160- and 165-strike puts. In other words, eleventh-hour bears expect TSLA to extend its retreat through tonight's close, when this series expires.

From a wider sentiment perspective, it's been call buyers who have been active in TSLA's options arena in recent months. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the security's 50-day call/put volume ratio of 1.13 ranks in the 69th annual percentile. However, with 28.5% of the stock's float sold short, though, some of this call buying could be a result of shorts initiating hedges.

Regardless of the motive, with TSLA slated to take its turn in the earnings confessional next week, volatility expectations are high. Specifically, the stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 77% sits 11 percentage points from a 52-week peak. In other words, premium on the equity's near-term options is relatively expensive at the moment.

Today's activity both on and off the charts just highlights TSLA's recent struggles. In fact, UBS is just one more brokerage firm recently to question Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) over the production of its Model X. As such, the shares have surrendered roughly one-third of their value in 2016, and are on pace for their lowest weekly close since January 2014.

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