Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ARIA): Options Frenzy After Bernie Sanders Letter

Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARIA) put options are flying off the shelves after Bernie Sanders requested information on drug pricing

by Andrea Kramer

Published on Oct 20, 2016 at 1:54 PM

The shares of Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARIA) were up roughly 4.3% at their intraday high, but quickly turned tail after former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders issued a letter requesting information on the company's "staggering" price hikes for its leukemia drug. With the Mylan NV (NASDAQ:MYL) EpiPen scandal still fresh in the collective Wall Street mind, ARIA is now down 4.5% at $10.32, and put options are flying off the shelves, as traders bet on more downside.

ARIA has seen roughly 8,600 puts cross the tape -- four times the average intraday pace, and triple the number of calls traded. At 1 p.m. ET, just before the Sanders news broke, ARIA had seen about 2,200 puts traded -- meaning more than 6,000 ARIA puts have changed hands in the last hour. The October 11 put is most active, with the October 14 strike representing the second most popular put.

Even before today, however, bearish bets were the options of choice. The stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) sits at 3.04 -- higher than 96% of all other readings from the past year. In other words, option buyers have been picking up ARIA puts over calls at a much faster-than-usual pace during the past two weeks.

In the same vein, ARIA's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.75 is in the 97th percentile of its annual range, suggesting near-term traders have rarely been more put-heavy during the past year. In fact, ARIA put open interest was at an annual high, even before the Sanders letter.

On the charts, Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARIA) had more than tripled from its February low of $4.37 to its nearly three-year high of $14.34, tagged on Oct. 10. Since then, however, ARIA shares have backpedaled 28% -- with help from a Sanders tweet on Oct. 14, vowing to "lower the cost of medication across this country." Should the stock continue its descent, or come under the gun for its drug pricing, a round of negative analyst attention could exacerbate selling pressure. At last check, ARIA boasted four "strong buy" endorsements, compared to one "hold" and one "strong sell."

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