Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD) Slide Draws Fresh Batch of Options Bears

With earnings due Thursday morning, Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) put open interest is docked at a 12-month high

Dec 5, 2016 at 3:02 PM
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Shares of Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) are down 4.3% at $11.97, after CEO Eddie Lampert said he would increase his current 57.3% stake in spinoff Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores Inc (NASDAQ:SHOS) amid a new partnership proposal. With SHLD stock now staring at a 42% year-to-date deficit -- and the retailer set to release earnings Thursday morning -- options activity is running at two times the average intraday pace, with nearly 14,000 contracts on the tape. Plus, volatility expectations are sky-high, with SHLD's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility docked at a 12-month high of 109.7%.

By the numbers, around 11,000 puts and 3,000 calls have traded on SHLD so far. Drilling down, the stock's January 2017 10-strike put has seen the most action, while pre-earnings options traders are targeting SHLD's weekly 12/9 12-strike put. There seems to be at least some buy-to-open activity occurring at each strike, meaning traders expect the retail stock to extend today's retreat over the next seven weeks. As a point of reference, SHLD stock hasn't explored single-digit territory since June 2003.

Nevertheless, today's options traders are not the only ones who think there's more trouble ahead for SHLD. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), nearly 11,400 puts have been bought to open in the past two weeks, compared to fewer than 1,000 calls. What's more, the resultant put/call volume ratio of 11.46 ranks just 5 percentage points from a 52-week peak.

Echoing this is SHLD's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.60, which arrives in the 70th annual percentile. Simply stated, short-term speculators are more put-heavy than usual toward the stock. In fact, put open interest across all SHLD's options series is in the 100th percentile of its 12-month range, with 298,351 contracts outstanding.

And with historical headwinds facing the small-cap stock, the skepticism toward Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) has spilled outside of the options pits, as well. In fact, a jaw-dropping 72.1% of SHLD's float is sold short, representing 27.4 times the security's average daily pace of trading. Meanwhile, just one analyst currently covers the stock, and has issued a "sell" rating for SHLD.

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