Kohl's Corporation (KSS) Comeback Sparks Fire in Options Pits

Kohl's Corporation (NYSE:KSS) was oversold heading into today's trading

by Karee Venema

Published on May 13, 2016 at 2:20 PM

It's been a dismal week for retail stocks amid an onslaught of negative earnings reactions for companies such as Nordstrom, Inc. (NYSE:JWN) and Macy's, Inc. (NYSE:M). In fact, even a strong reading on retail sales is failing to lift the sector, with the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) down once again this afternoon. Nevertheless, Kohl's Corporation (NYSE:KSS) is outperforming its sector peers today -- with KSS stock up 3.6% at $36.43 -- and options traders are rushing to get in on the action.

Overall, KSS options volume is trading at three times what's typically seen at this point in the day. By the numbers, 5,552 call options are on the tape, compared to 5,474 put options. Most active are KSS' May 37.50 put and June 37.50 call, and it looks as if new positions are being purchased at both strikes.

If this is the case, put buyers expect KSS stock to slip further below $37.50 by next Friday's close, when the front-month options expire. Call buyers, meanwhile, are betting on KSS to rally north of the strike by back-month expiration, at the close on Friday, June 17. Regardless of where the stock settles at the respective options expiration dates, the most either set of options buyers stands to lose is the initial premium paid.

More broadly speaking, KSS options traders have shown a preference for calls over puts. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), for instance, the stock sports a top-heavy 10-day call/put volume ratio of 1.84.

Elsewhere, KSS' Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.46 ranks lower than all other readings taken in the past year. In other words, short-term speculators are more call-heavy now toward KSS than they've been at any other point during the last 12 months. With a healthy 9% of the equity's float sold short, though, some of the recent call buying may be a result of short sellers hedging against any upside risk.

In fact, today's positive price action is an anomaly for the retail stock. Year-over-year, KSS has surrendered 44% -- and hit a seven-year low of $33.87 yesterday, following the firm's own dismal turn in the earnings confessional. As such, Kohl's Corporation's (NYSE:KSS) 14-day Relative Strength Index (RSI) closed Thursday at 21 -- deep in oversold territory -- suggesting a near-term bounce may have been in the cards. This may be why KSS is rallying today, even after receiving price-target cuts from Cowen (to $40), RBC (to $37), UBS (to $37), and Stifel (to $45).

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