United States Steel Corporation (X) Option Bull Takes Aim at $20

United States Steel Corporation (X) is trekking higher amid signs of building steel demand

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Oct 20, 2016 at 2:43 PM

United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) stock is sizzling on heavy volume, after an encouraging earnings call by sector peer Steel Dynamics, Inc. (NASDAQ:STLD), which said it's seeing strong demand from the automotive and construction sectors. At last check, U.S. Steel shares have surged 4.9% to $19.38, while stock volume ranks in the 99th annual percentile. At the same time, X options are extremely popular.

So far, about 93,000 calls are on the tape, representing a 12-month high -- this, with call open interest already at an annual peak. Moreover, call options are being exchanged at five times the usual intraday rate, dwarfing puts by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

Most of the action stems from a bull call spread initiated at the weekly 10/28 18.50 and 20 strikes, according to Trade-Alert. By erecting this spread for $0.37 each -- or a total of roughly $565,000 (net debit * 15,280 contracts * 100 shares per contract) -- the trader is wagering on X to run to the round $20 level by next Friday's close, when the series expires.

On the charts, the $20 area has actually served as a layer of resistance in 2016, repelling rally attempts in the spring and as recently as late September. Of course, X shares are sitting south of this level only after a precipitous drop-off from their late-July high of $29.64.

Turning back to the options pits, U.S. Steel has been targeted by put buyers in recent weeks. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock has racked up a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.52 -- outstripping two-thirds of all readings from the prior year. In short, today notwithstanding, expectations among the options crowd have been low.

The same goes elsewhere on Wall Street, as 11 of 13 analysts rate United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) a "hold" or worse. Plus, short interest accounts for a lofty 28% of the stock's float. However, at X's typical pace of trading, it would take just a couple of days for short sellers to cover these bearish bets.

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