High Expectations Could Present Headwinds for TD Ameritrade Stock

AMTD options are attractively priced right now

Research Dept.
May 16, 2017 at 12:14 PM
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Shares of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: AMTD) broke below their year-to-date breakeven mark in early February, and are now staring up at stiff resistance from their 160-day moving average. And while the brokerage firm is one of the weakest technically among its sector peers, high expectations surround the stock -- which, once unwound, could create headwinds for the shares down the road.

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For starters, speculative traders at the major options exchanges have bought to open 12.56 calls for every put over the last 10 sessions -- a ratio that ranks just 4 percentage points from a 52-week peak. In other words, calls have been bought to open over puts at a near-annual-high clip.

Echoing this, AMTD's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.55 ranks in the low 5th annual percentile, meaning short-term traders have rarely been as call-skewed as they are now. Historically speaking, it's been a good time to go short AMTD when its SOIR was low.

In fact, short sellers have slowly been increasing their bearish exposure to AMTD, but short interest accounts for a low 4.1% of the stock's float. The shares could get pressured even lower, should bears continue to boost their short positions. Plus, there's ample room for analysts to downgrade the stock, which could stoke further selling. Of the 13 analysts providing coverage -- down from 27 in February -- seven maintain a "buy" or better rating, with not a single "sell" to be found.

It's an affordable time to purchase premium on AMTD, too. The stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 23% ranks in the 5th annual percentile, suggesting low volatility expectations are being priced into near-term options. Plus, AMTD's Schaeffer's Volatility Scorecard (SVS) of 99 indicates the stock has tended to make outsized moves, relative to what the options market has priced in.

Subscribers to Schaeffer's Weekend Trader services received this commentary on May 14. 

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