A-Shares ETF Soars, Crimps Bearish Options Buyers

Slack Chinese economic data is prompting some traders to make bearish options on a major U.S.-listed A-shares exchange traded fund and those traders are paying the price Monday.

Shares of the Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF (NYSEArca: ASHR) is up 4% Monday and trading within pennies of its all-time reached in January, making it one of the day’s top-performing non-leveraged ETFs.

ASHR’s rally comes as traders have loaded up on put options that will increase in value if the ETF declines. Recent put buying on ASHR “pushed the ratio of bearish to bullish contracts to a five-month high on March 11 as investors pulled $34 million from the fund in a second week of outflows,” reports Belinda Cao for Bloomberg.

Put volume on ASHR “jumped fourfold to an all-time high of 44,770 contracts last week from a January low. The open interest on options to buy the ETF, or calls, increased 45 percent during the period to 52,670,” according to Bloomberg.

Bearish options activity on ASHR was spotted in late February as well, but since Feb. 25, ASHR has surged 7.4%. Over the same period, the iShares China Large-Cap ETF (NYSEArca: FXI), the largest U.S.-listed China ETF, has fallen 2.4%. [Bearish Bets Rise on A-Shares ETF]

Recent Chinese economic data has fueled bearish trades on ASHR. China’s industrial output grew 6.8% through the first two months of this year, the weakest pace of expansion in over six years. Retail sales rose 10.7%, well below the 11.7% climb economists expected.

“Fixed-asset investment, a crucial driver of the Chinese economy, rose 13.9 percent, the weakest expansion since 2001 and compared with estimates for a 15 percent gain,” Reuters reported.