Option Bears Stay After Struggling Caterpillar Inc. (CAT)

Option bears continue to flock to Dow stock Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT)

Jul 5, 2016 at 3:30 PM
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Skepticism has been picking up toward Dow stock Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) for months, as the shares have tumbled. Year-over-year, CAT is down close to 11%, which includes today's 3.1% drop at $74.04 -- putting it near the bottom of the Dow. In the meantime, interest in CAT options has continued to grow, as traders use both puts and calls to bet against the struggling stock. 

For starters, put buying has more than doubled call buying during the last 10 weeks at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). The resulting 50-day put/call volume ratio of 2.33 ranks in the 74th annual percentile. 

This trend is continuing today, with CAT's single-day put/call volume ratio coming in at 3.78, ranking in the 97th annual percentile. The July 74 put is the most popular option, followed by the September 72.50 put, and January 2017 65-strike put -- and potential buy-to-open activity may be transpiring at all three strikes.

Looking closer, while put open interest is historically elevated -- in the 98th annual percentile -- call open interest actually sits at the top of its 12-month range. This is partially the result of traders selling to open options, betting on potential layers of technical resistance. According to data from the major exchanges, 10,842 calls have been sold to open in the past two weeks, compared to 7,112 that were bought to open -- indicating bears have found yet another way to wager against CAT.  

However, now appears to be a much better time to buy premium rather than sell it -- particularly with respect to short-term options. The stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 22% ranks below 96% of the past year's readings, suggesting CAT options are relatively cheap, from a volatility standpoint. 

Outside the options arena, short sellers also have had their eye on the Dow stock. Short interest has edged higher in the previous reporting periods, and it would now take these bears essentially two weeks to cover their positions, at CAT's average trading volumes. This downbeat view is shared by analysts, as just one of 14 recommends buying Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) shares.

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