Facebook Inc (FB) Put Options Accelerate on Citron Smack Talk

Does Facebook Inc (FB) present a "tremendous" short selling opportunity?

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Aug 30, 2016 at 2:08 PM

Put options on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) are crossing at an accelerated pace this afternoon, after a market-moving short seller waxed pessimistic on the social media stock. Specifically, Andrew Left of Citron Research said FB will become a "tremendous" short once engagement numbers begin decreasing. While Left added he doesn't have a position in the shares, this isn't the first time he's taken aim at Facebook.

As alluded to, put options have really picked up on the bearish note, trading at 1.4 times the rate expected at this point in the session. Based on data from Trade-Alert, it appears a 6,721-contract block of September 120 puts was rolled out and up to the weekly 9/23 123 strike. In other words, this trader is giving FB an extra week to decline, and moderating his bearish expectations.

Today's not the only time put options have traded at a relatively accelerated clip. Based on data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), this has been happening a lot in the last two weeks. Specifically, FB's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.64 ranks in the top quartile of its annual range -- though, admittedly, the ratio is call-skewed on an absolute basis.

While bearish options bets mount, short positions have been unwinding. During the two most recent reporting periods, short interest on FB slid nearly 19%, and less than 1% of its total float is currently dedicated to short interest. In fact, at fewer than 20 million shares, short interest rests at a record low for the social media giant.

On the charts, though, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) may be vulnerable. The shares have been consolidating around $125 for over a month, and today's Citron note has them off 0.9% at $125.41. If the stock keeps churning, a renewed interest among short sellers -- or ongoing capitulation among institutional investors -- could result in headwinds.

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