Novartis AG (NVS) Call Options Take Off Amid Pharma Division Shake-Up

Novartis AG (ADR) (NVS) will divide its pharmaceuticals unit in two

Alex Eppstein
May 17, 2016 at 3:47 PM
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Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) calls options are trading at five times the typical intraday pace, after the drugmaker announced it will split its pharmaceuticals division in two. In addition, one high-ranking executive is on his way out. Amid these headlines, NVS is off 0.2% at $75.47.

So far, the most active NVS option is the May 77.50 call. From the looks of it, buy-to-open activity may be transpiring, as short-term speculators count on the stock to topple the out-of-the-money strike by Friday's close, when front-month options expire.

This represents a dramatic change of pace for NVS, which has seen roughly 15 puts bought to open for each call during the last two weeks at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). In fact, the resultant put/call volume ratio of 15.04 ranks just 10 percentage points from an annual high.

Options traders aren't the only ones who are skeptical of NVS. In fact, 60% of analysts covering the pharmaceutical stock consider it a "hold" or worse. On the other hand, short interest on the shares is almost nonexistent, comprising a mere 0.2% of the drugmaker's float.

On the charts, it's been a dismal year for Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS). Since the start of 2016, the stock has surrendered more than 12% of its value, and in early April touched a two-year low of $69.90. In recent weeks, the shares have been tangling with their descending 20-week moving average -- above which they haven't closed since mid-August, on a weekly basis.

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