Apple shares have been stuck in the mud lately.
The stock has lagged the broader market since early summer, falling 10 percent in the last six months while the S&P 500 is down 1 percent in the same period. According to one trader, who relies heavily on the charts and options market, the stock could continue to come under pressure as we head into next year.
"Apple's had a great run, but I think it might be time to take some profits," Andrew Keene said Tuesday on CNBC's "Trading Nation." "The stock has been strong but for some reason it's not finding the buying momentum to take it throughout the end of the year."
Keene noted that Apple shares have been butting up against resistance since revisiting its all-time high in July. "Apple's had trouble breaking through this $120 level," said Keene. "If we can't get above that level it's only going to head one way and that's lower." Keene added that the stock may have just completed a double top formation. Technicians often view these patterns as a sign that a bull market could be ending.
To play for a potential decline in Apple's stock price, Keene looked to the options market. Specifically he purchased the March 115/105/95put butterfly for a total cost of $1.50. This is a bearish strategy where a trader will buy a put, sell two lower strike puts, and buy a lower strike put all of the same expiration. The goal is for the stock to fall to the two short strikes, or in Keene's case $105 by March expiration. That's a hair above its year-to-date closing low of $103.12 and would represent a 11 percent decline from the current stock price of about $117.
"I'll make money on this trade if Apple is anywhere between $96.50 and $113.50 by March expiration," said the founder of AlphaShark Trading. "I could potentially make 600 percent of my money if Apple goes to my measured move target of $105."
Wall Street tends to be on the opposite side of Keene's trade. Of the 53 analysts that cover the stock, the average price target is $146.52, nearly 25 percent higher than the Tuesday's price, with an "overweight" rating.
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