Are Freeport-McMoRan Inc (FCX) Options a Bargain?

Freeport-McMoRan Inc (FCX) is selling California assets, and the stock's near-term options look like a bargain ahead of earnings

by Celeste Taylor

Published on Oct 14, 2016 at 3:09 PM

Freeport-McMoRan Inc (NYSE:FCX) -- which reports earnings in less than two weeks -- announced that it will be selling some of its California onshore properties to Sentinel Peak Resources California, in a deal that could be worth up to $742 million. FCX is currently trading 0.7% higher at $9.71, and the stock's near-term options look like a relative bargain.

While the stock has more than doubled in the past nine months, it's still off 31% from its April high of $14.06. However, the shares may have found a level of support at FCX's 50-week moving average.

As alluded to earlier, FCX is preparing to report earnings later this month. The stock has managed a move higher in the session after earnings for the past four quarters, with a gain of 2.4% after its last earnings report in July. This time around, the market is pricing in a 4.3% single-session, post-earnings move, per implied volatility data.

Despite this promising track record, Wall Street remains skeptical. Short interest is up 15.3% in the last two reporting periods, now accounting for 9.8% of FCX's float -- which would take close to a week of trading to cover, at FCX's average daily volume.

In the option pits, FCX's front-month gamma-weighted Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) is a lofty 3.07, indicating near-the-money puts more than triple calls among options expiring in three months or less. The top front-month open interest position for FCX is its October 8 put -- home to more than 38,000 contracts outstanding, many of which were bought to open.

Now seems to be a good time to get in on the options action. Freeport-McMoRan Inc (NYSE:FCX) currently boasts a Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 57%, which is in the bottom 16% of its annual range. This indicates near-term traders are pricing in relatively low volatility expectations, historically speaking. Meanwhile, FCX's Schaeffer's Volatility Scorecard (SVS) is a lofty 98 -- putting it No. 3 on our list of stocks ripe for volatility plays -- suggesting FCX has tended to exceed option players' volatility expectations over the past year.

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