December 15th, 2015

AutoNation benefiting from shifts in consumer trend

Today’s tickers: AN, GD, HSY, MSFT & NOK AN – AutoNation Inc. – Shares of the automotive retailer have lifted 6% today to $10.33, a price that represents a more than 160% increase over the 52-week low of $3.97 established just as the broad market reached its weakest point for 2008 in November. AutoNation continues to thrive in this depressed economic environment, whereas the big four automakers are left struggling in vain to avoid the descent to bankruptcy. AN has captured a sweet spot in the auto industry given that consumers continue to require automobiles for transportation purposes, but are currently without the means to purchase new vehicles. And so AutoNation welcomes cash-strapped consumers to its franchises, while big-auto laments the loss of customers, which it so desperately needs. Interestingly, CEO Mike Jackson, reported that demand for highly fuel-efficient autos and hybrid vehicles has fallen off a cliff given the decline in the price of gasoline, and now AN’s lots are chock-full of the cars. Perhaps if gasoline prices rally and consumers once again remember the long-run cost savings hybrids accrue, the hybrid vehicles will once again fly off the shelves. AN popped onto our ‘hot by options volume’ market scanner today after some interesting trades were established in the March and April contracts. At the March 10 strike price, 10,000 puts were sold for 40 cents each while at that same strike, 5,000 calls appear to have been purchased for 90 cents apiece. It also looks like these two trades were connected to the purchase of 2,500 calls at the April 10 strike price for 1.45 per contract, as well as the purchase of 2,500 calls at the April 12.5 strike for 45 cents each. We believe that the puts were sold as a vehicle to finance the purchase of calls as this investor seeks further upside on AN. The March 10 calls are already in-the-money as of today, but shares would need to rally by an additional 21% in order for the April 12.5 calls to land in-the-money by expiration. The investor appears to feel confident that the shares will remain above $10.00 at expiration. GD – General Dynamics Corp. – Over the course of the last six months, shares at defense contractor, General Dynamics have fared badly falling from around $95 to $35 per share. You can blame the broad macro environment or you can focus on expectations of lower earmark…
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