Pre-Earnings J C Penney Company Inc (JCP) Options Bulls Target Double Digits

J C Penney Company Inc (NYSE:JCP) hosts its annual analyst day today, and will report earnings tomorrow

Aug 11, 2016 at 10:06 AM
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Retail stocks have been in the limelight this week, with a number of notable names making big post-earnings moves. J C Penney Company Inc (NYSE:JCP) will follow in the footsteps of its peers tomorrow morning -- with the release of JCP's quarterly earnings report coinciding with the latest retail sales data -- while today, the department store chain will host its annual analyst meeting. Ahead of the events, JCP stock is up 6% at $9.70 on a positive earnings reaction for fellow retailer Kohl's Corporation (NYSE:KSS)  -- and some recent option bulls are hoping for a bigger rise into double digits.

Yesterday, in fact, call volume on JCP jumped to nearly three times the average daily amount. Most active was the equity's September 10 call, where more than 14,500 contracts changed hands. It seems safe to assume new positions were purchased here -- a theory echoed by Trade-Alert -- meaning options traders are expecting JCP stock to rally north of $10 by the close on Friday, Sept. 16, when back-month options expire.

While yesterday's activity echoes the action seen by pre-earnings options bulls, the longer-term trend has been toward puts. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), JCP's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.26 ranks higher than 79% of all comparable readings taken in the past year. In other words, puts have been bought to open over calls at a faster-than-usual clip.

What's more, JCP currently sports a top-heavy Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.71. Not only does this show that puts nearly double calls among options set to expire in three months or less, but it ranks in the 71st annual percentile. Simply stated, short-term speculators are more put-heavy than usual toward JCP.

With 30% of JCP's float sold short, it's possible some of this call activity is of the protective kind. Regardless, those currently purchasing premium on the equity's near-term options are willing to pay a pretty penny. With earnings on the immediate horizon, volatility expectations are high. In fact, JCP's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 94% rests in the elevated 80th annual percentile.

Looking back over the past eight quarters, J C Penney Company Inc (NYSE:JCP) has averaged a single-session post-earnings move of 8%, with the stock swinging lower in six of those quarters. This time around, the options market is pricing in a lofty 13.8% swing -- much higher than last quarter's relatively yawn-worthy post-earnings performance.

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