Starwood M&A Approval Stokes Marriott International Inc (MAR) Options Pits

Marriott International Inc (MAR) options traders are eyeing a short-term move north of $72

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Sep 20, 2016 at 3:10 PM

Marriott International Inc (NASDAQ:MAR) options are flying off the shelves, after the hotel operator's acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc (NYSE:HOT) received a green light from antitrust regulators in China. By the numbers, nearly 7,600 MAR options are on the tape, quadrupling what's expected at this time of day.

Receiving notable attention is the October 72 call. In all likelihood, traders are buying to open positions, counting on MAR toppling the strike price by the close on Friday, Oct. 21, when front-month strikes expire. Earlier, the shares topped out at an intraday high of $70.99, and were last seen up 2.5% at $70.056.

More broadly, options traders have shown a preference for long calls over puts. MAR's 50-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) call/put volume ratio is 2.12, with calls more than doubling puts. Along similar lines, the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) sits at an annual low of 0.43.

Elsewhere on Wall Street, optimism isn't nearly as prevalent. For instance, two-thirds of analysts rate MAR either a "hold" or "sell." Plus, almost 28% of the stock's float is sold short, which would take five weeks to cover, at typical daily trading levels. Given this high short interest-to-float ratio, it's possible some recent call buyers are actually short sellers picking up options protection.

On the charts, Marriott International Inc (NASDAQ:MAR) has been fighting back since falling to an annual low of $56.43 early in the year, for a modest year-to-date lead of 4.5%. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc (NYSE:HOT) shares have been much more successful -- powering 20% higher in 2016 -- but they will be delisted before the open on Friday.

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