Some of the biggest movers this earnings season may not be responding to earnings at all.
Shares of Consol Energy, Chesapeake Energy and Transocean are each expected to either rise or fall some 20 percent in the next six weeks, leading MKM derivatives strategist Jim Strugger to report that they are the energy stocks expected to see the biggest moves around earnings.
All three of these companies are indeed set to report in this time period, but that's only part of the reason why such big action is anticipated.
"Earnings really isn't being priced too crazy, but the sector as a whole is pricing in more volatility," said Stacey Gilbert, head of derivative strategy at Susquehanna.
The main cause of that is the expected volatility of "oil itself. If you look at the options market, it's suggested that we could see moves of 2.5 percent on a single day at least twice a week. Compare that to a year ago, when the expectation was for that to happen once a month," Gilbert said.
"All this volatility in the oil market just wreaks havoc on these particular companies," added Phillip Streible, senior market strategist at RJO Futures, in a Friday "Power Lunch " segment. "We've seen deteriorating net income levels, we've seen operating cash start to dwindle a lot."
Further contributing to the uncertainty, potentially, is a process known as redetermination, whereby banks re-evaluate their lending to energy companies, using oil prices as a key input. Some firms are still in the middle of this biannual process, according to Reuters.
Expected moves can be determined by looking to the options market. A trader who buys a put and a call that are at the money (that is, have exercise prices in line with where the stock is trading) is exposed to the fullness of the stock's moves that occur at that expiry. Therefore, if the trader expects the move in that time period — here, between now and November expiration — to be bigger than those options would indicate, he should buy both of those options.
If a different trader expects those moves to be smaller, she can sell the options. This process should lead the overall prices of those options to be roughly in line with the move the market expects.
For instance, on Monday afternoon, with Consol Energy trading at $11.40, the November 11-strike call is trading at $1.38, and the November 11-strike put is trading at $1.02. Since these sum to $2.40, we know that a move equal to 21 percent of the stock price is anticipated within the next 39 days.