Credit markets are giving an ominous sign for what was once a blue chip among blue chips. Credit spreads are forecasting increasing near-term solvency risks in shares of BP as the oil catastrophe in the Gulf continues to worsen. The term structure in CDS has severely inverted implying a very high risk of near-term default:
Options markets have turned equally bearish. Andrew Wilkinson at Interactive Brokers discusses the extremely bearish action in BP shares yesterday:
BP – BP PLC – Options volume on beleaguered oil company, BP PLC, is fast approaching 750,000 contracts, fueling a more than 79.7% upward shift in the stock’s overall reading of options implied volatility to a 5-year high of 120.96%. Utter pandemonium erupted in BP options after the firm’s shares plunged 16.00%, crashing straight through the now defunct 52-week low of $34.15, to touch an intraday and new 5-year low of $29.13. Catalysts for the squall are not difficult to come by with analysts suggesting an increased probability BP will cut dividends to help pay for the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The first half of the trading day was relatively calm with shares increasing 1.62% over the opening price of $33.90 to an intraday high of $34.45. But, by noon time on the east coast, BP’s shares had already begun their descent. Options activity on the stock can easily be described as frenzied as volume continues to grow in both call and put options across multiple expiries. Investors are displaying a slight preference for put options, with roughly 1.35 put contracts exchanged to each single call option in play thus far in the trading day. Put buyers are out in full force, scooping up at least 1,600 of the bearish contracts at the June $17.5 strike for an average premium of $0.25 apiece. Buying interest in the front month is heaviest in now in-the-money puts at the June $30 strike where more than 43,000 contracts changed hands by 3:05 pm (ET). Investors buying these contracts now face an asking price of $2.85 apiece. Other pessimistic players cast doubts for a near-term recovery by selling call options. Less than 60 minutes remain in the current trading session. Option volume on BP has surpassed 710,000 contracts and continues to steadily rise.
Is BP done for?
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.