Slower Ad Sales, Bear Note Weigh on Facebook Stock

SunTrust Robinson is still confident in Facebook's long-term viability, though

by Patrick Martin

Published on Mar 25, 2020 at 10:09 AM

Most Americans are stuck inside with nothing to do, so social media and internet use has ballooned. All these extra eyeballs means increased traffic for social media powerhouse Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), which said its platform use has spiked since the virus outbreak triggered quarantines across the country. However, Facebook also noted that its ad sales business has taken a hit, prompting price-target cuts to $230 from SunTrust Robinson and Monness Crespi as well as a cut to $215 by Cowen and Company this morning. 

At last check, Facebook stock was down 2% to trade at $157.76. While the shares have distanced themselves from their March 18 annual low of $137.10, the $160 level has emerged as short-term resistance in the last week. FB has shed 42% since its Jan. 29 record high of $224.20, and is facing off with its year-over-year breakeven level. 

Despite the bear note from SunTrust today, the analyst in coverage did maintain its "buy" rating, and affirmed that Facebook's WhatsApp and Messenger services equip it to come out of the crisis with upbeat growing engagement. That overall optimism is reflected in the broader brokerage community, with 26 of 27 rating FB a "buy" or better, with zero "sells" on the books.

In the options pits, the attitude leans toward puts. The stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.64 at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) ranks in the 96th percentile of its annual range. This indicates that while calls have outpaced puts on an absolute basis, the rate of put buying relative to call buying has been accelerated.


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