Short-Term Option Bulls Up the Ante on Surging Hertz Global Holdings Inc (HTZ)

Hertz Global Holdings Inc (NYSE:HTZ) is on track for its best day in months on news of executive investments

May 17, 2016 at 3:15 PM
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Car rental stock Hertz Global Holdings Inc (NYSE:HTZ) is up 11.8% today at $8.61 -- its best percentage gain in months -- on news that several executives have purchased large blocks of common stock in recent days. Specifically, the company's chief financial officer and chief revenue officer bought 40,000 and 65,000 shares, respectively, on Friday. Meanwhile CEO John Tague purchased a total of 66,000 shares between Friday and Monday. The news seems to have perked up traders' interest, with the stock's volume on track to finish in the 96th percentile of its annual range. And in the options pits, HTZ speculators are busy placing bullish bets, and collecting profits on now in-the-money positions.

HTZ options are crossing at twice their typical intraday pace, and calls outnumber puts by a nearly 5-to-1 clip, with 9,739 calls traded, compared to 2,090 puts. Most active is the stock's June 8 call, where the International Securities Exchange (ISE) is signaling some sell-to-close action -- suggesting traders are locking in paper profits. Another popular strike is the May 9 call, where new positions are possibly being purchased to open. By buying the calls, traders are betting that the shares will extend their rally above the $9 level by the close this Friday, when the front-month option expires.

But the $9 level could be difficult to topple. Peak open interest for HTZ currently resides at the soon-to-be front-month June 9 call, home to roughly 21,200 contracts -- which could translate into options-related resistance. Plus, the shares have been struggling to surmount their 30-day moving average, which has limited the stock's advances since early April, and currently sits just below the $9 level.

Despite today's bullish gap, HTZ has had a rough time on the charts in recent months, and is now down more than 58% year-over-year. Last week's trip to the earnings confessional didn't help, as the company's results came in below analysts' expectations.

That said, sentiment throughout Wall Street is still relatively optimistic. More than half of analysts maintain a "buy" rating or better on the security. Short interest on HTZ remains elevated, accounting for over a week's worth of trading, at the stock's average daily volume. But these bearish bets are down 8.2% over the two most recent reporting periods.

And today's preference for calls just echoes the recent trend in the options pits. Hertz Global Holdings Inc (NYSE:HTZ) sports a 10-day call/put volume ratio of 3.84 across the ISE, Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) -- in the 69th percentile of its annual range -- indicating nearly four calls have been purchased to open for each put during the period.

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