The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today said it may ban flavored e-cigarettes as a result of their popularity among teenagers, which has reached “epidemic proportions,” according to a released statement. Tobacco stocks are surging as a result, with Altria Group Inc (NYSE:MO), Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM), and British American Tobacco PLC (NYSE:BTI) all notably higher in today’s trading.
Altria Group Stock Breaks Out Above 200-Day Trendline
Altria Group stock was last seen up 6.4% at $63.25, on track for the first close north of its 200-day moving average since Feb. 2. But while the shares have now added more than 17% since hitting a two-year low of $53.91 on May 15, they are running out of steam near $64 — home to their pre-bear gap close from mid-April.
Options are hot today, too, with 89,000 calls and 31,000 puts on the tape — roughly six times what’s typically seen and volume running in the 100th annual percentile. Most active is the September 60 call, where it looks like some speculators may be purchasing new positions for a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $3.37. If this is the case, breakeven for the call buyers at next Friday’s close, when front-month options expire, is $63.37 (strike plus premium paid).
Philip Morris Stock is Struggling Against Chart Resistance
Philip Morris shares have gained 3.3% to trade at $79.99. The security earlier ran all the way up past $81.50, home to its 80-day moving average and its late-August bear-gap highs. Longer term, PM stock has shed close to 32% over the last 12 months.
In the options pits, nearly 19,000 calls and 9,900 puts have been exchanged — more than double the expected intraday amount. Nevertheless, a number of speculators appear to be bracing for a quick retreat, with buy-to-open activity detected at the weekly 9/14 78-strike put. Breakeven for put buyers at this Friday’s close would be $77.76 (strike less VWAP of $0.24).
British American Tobacco Shares Bounce Back
The U.S.-listed shares of British American Tobacco were last seen trading 6.1% higher at $49.04, on track to close north of their 10-day moving average for the first time since Aug. 20. From a broader perspective, BTI stock is down 28% from its Jan. 23 annual peak of $71.45, and hit a six-year low of $46.07 yesterday.
With about an hour left in today’s trading, 3,047 BTI calls and 442 puts have changed hands — more than eight times the average daily volume of 460 contracts. The half-century mark is in focus, with possible buy-to-open action occurring at the September and October 50 calls.