Freeport-McMoRan Inc (FCX) Option Bulls Set Their Sights Higher

Freeport-McMoRan Inc (NYSE:FCX) has hit a year-to-date high, and call options are trading at an accelerated rate

by Josh Selway

Published on Apr 19, 2016 at 12:22 PM
Updated on Jun 24, 2020 at 10:16 AM

Freeport-McMoRan Inc (NYSE:FCX) is at it again. The mining stock has exploded for a 7.8% gain to trade at $11.88, on pace for its best close since early November, amid a broader rally among commodity stocks. This is just more of the same from FCX, which hit a 15-year low of $3.52 in late January, but has caught fire since. What's more, not only is the stock's volume soaring, but FCX options are trading at an above-average pace. 

By the numbers, FCX call volume is running at 1.6 times the typical intraday rate, currently arriving in the 92nd annual percentile. The weekly 4/22 series is seeing heavy attention, with the 11.50-strike call emerging as the most popular option today. Likewise, other traders are targeting the weekly 4/22 12.50-strike call. Data hints at buy-to-open activity at both of these strikes, meaning speculators are betting on extended gains from FCX through Friday's close, when the weekly series expires. 

This rush to call options is a continuation of what we've seen in FCX's options pits lately. After all, we noted accelerated call buying as recently as last week. Now, the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) reflects this strong call bias. Specifically, the SOIR comes in at an annual low of 0.76, indicating that short-term options traders are more call-skewed now than at any point in the past year. 

As bulls have been making their way to the options pits, bears have been hitting the exits elsewhere. For instance, short interest plummeted by nearly 21% during the last two reporting periods. However, roughly 13% of FCX's float is still controlled by short sellers, meaning there's still plenty of sideline cash to fuel a short-squeeze -- especially if the miner reports better-than-expected earnings next Tuesday morning. 

Plus, there's still potential for bullish attention from analysts. Twelve of the 15 brokerage firms covering Freeport-McMoRan Inc (NYSE:FCX) say it's just a "hold," while its average 12-month price target sits below current levels at $8.59. Nonetheless, CLSA hit the stock with a downgrade to "sell" this morning. 

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