Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) Downgrade Draws Rare Batch of Option Bears

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF) was downgraded at KeyBanc to "sector weight" from "overweight"

by Karee Venema

Published on Oct 6, 2016 at 3:11 PM

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF) is trading down 2.5% at $15.87, after KeyBanc lowered its rating on the retail stock to "sector weight" from "overweight." Specifically, the brokerage firm cited concerns over a heavy promotional environment, and said Abercrombie is "overstored." As such, put volume is running at a quicker-than-usual clip -- at odds with ANF stock's longer-term trend -- with a number of speculators eyeing additional losses in the near term.

By the numbers, more than 7,500 ANF put options have traded today -- about 1.8 times what's typically seen at this point in the day -- compared to fewer than 2,150 call options. Most active are the stock's weekly 11/4 14- and 15-strike puts, where it appears new positions are being purchased. If this is the case, the put buyers' goal is for ANF stock to settle south of the respective strike prices when the weekly options expire at the close on Friday, Nov. 4.

As indicated, though, this accelerated put volume is a rare occurrence in ANF's options pits. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the security's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 3.60 ranks in the 85th annual percentile. In other words, options traders have shown a healthier-than-usual appetite for long calls relative to puts of late.

Echoing this penchant for calls is ANF's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.99, which arrives lower than 62% of all comparable readings taken in the past 12 months. Simply stated, speculators are more call-heavy than usual toward options set to expire in three months or less.

Considering roughly 22% of ANF's float is sold short, though, it's possible some of this recent call buying is a result of short sellers hedging against any upside risk. Regardless, with low volatility expectations priced into the stock's near-term options, premium buyers are getting a relatively good deal. In fact, the security's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 39% rests in the 9th annual percentile.

Technically, today's negative price action is just more of the same for the struggling retail stock. Since topping out at an annual high of $32.83 in early March, shares of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF) have plunged nearly 52% -- due in part to two post-earnings bear gaps.

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