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Options Traders React to Monster Rite Aid Rally

Karee Venema

Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE:RAD) stock has been ripping higher since the drugstore chain reported a third-quarter revenue beat the morning of Dec. 19, while also lowering its full-year net loss outlook. Since its Dec. 18 close at $8.32, RAD shares are up 157% -- including today's 11.6% pop that has the equity trading at $21.42, pacing toward a seventh straight win, and earlier hitting a 13-month high of $23.88.

RAD options traders are in overdrive this afternoon, too, with some eyeing even bigger gains into the new year. At last check, around 23,000 calls and 22,000 puts have changed hands today -- eight times what's typically seen, and volume pacing in the 100th annual percentile.

Day traders are active, with the soon-to-expire weekly 12/27 series making up three of RAD's four most active options. The weekly 1/3 23- and 24-strike calls are also popular, and it looks like new positions are being purchased here. If this is the case, the call buyers expect Rite Aid stock to rally above the strikes by the close next Friday, Jan. 3, when the series expires.

More broadly speaking, options traders at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Cboe Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) have bought to open 1.79 calls for each put over the past 10 days. While this could be indicative of traditional bulls betting on more gains, it's also possible short sellers are using the long calls to hedge against any additional upside risk.

Short interest on Rite Aid stock ticked higher in the latest reporting period to 14.24 million shares. This represents nearly 27% of the equity's available float, or almost four times the average daily pace of trading. Given how heavily shorted RAD is, some are speculating the stock's latest surge up the charts could be the result of a short squeeze.

rad stock daily chart dec 2019
rad stock daily chart dec 2019