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Bears Target Alliance Data

By David Russell, reporter at OptionMonster

NEW YORK -- Alliance Data Systems (ADS) hit an all-time high last week, and now the option paper is turning bearish.

OptionMonster's tracking programs Wednesday detected a massive put buy in the company, which runs consumer-loyalty programs. A single block of 10,000 December 110s were purchased for 70 cents, dwarfing previous open interest of just 12 contracts and therefore new activity. The trade accounted for more than 90% of the overall contracts in the name and pushed total option volume to 14 times above average.

Puts lock in the price where investors can sell shares, so they offer insurance against a decline. Even if the stock remains above $110 through expiration, the contracts can appreciate to the downside because they'll get closer to being in the money. Given their cheapness to buy, they could also generate significant leverage from a pullback in the name.

Alliance Data shares fell 1.74% to $173.58 Wednesday. The stock peaked over $184 on May 28 and tried to bounce on Tuesday, but it continued to drop Wednesday as the broader market declined. Its peak came less than a week after S&P 500 reversed from an all-time high of its own.

Management is scheduled to appear before the William Blair Growth Stock Conference on June 11, and volatility has already been gaining ahead of that event.

Puts outnumbered calls by a bearish 124-to-1 ratio in the session.

Russell has no positions in ADS.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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