Ahhh, how quickly love fades. In late June, Pacific Crest upgraded Chinese-language Internet search engine Baidu.com to outperform from market perform, citing online advertising growth. But today, the affair was over, as Pacific Crest's covering analyst reduced his rating on BIDU down to sector perform from outperform. In the time since the original upgrade (less than 4 months), BIDU shares have appreciated more than 110%.
Although the stock did manage to peg yet another new all-time high this morning (cresting above the $330 level), the shares have since retreated to show a modest decline of about 1%. Despite this slight hiccup, the shares are still trading well above short-term support at their 10-day moving average.
Today's downgrade could be chalked up to fears that the stock has run up too far, too fast, and BIDU has certainly been a solid momentum name for the past several months. But signs of skepticism still envelop the shares, leading a contrarian to conclude that there could be additional gains looming ahead. For instance, short interest accounts for almost 12% of the equity's available float, meaning there has been some bearish positioning on the part of equity investors.
Additionally, Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) for BIDU weighs in at 1.20, with puts narrowly trumping calls in the front 3-months' series. This reading is higher than all but 1% of the past year's data, meaning the options crowd's preference for puts is near an annual peak. The large majority of the open puts reside at out-of-the-money strikes (below BIDU's current level), so provide a potential foundation for structural put support in the short term.