Traders exchanged more than one million option contracts on Apple (Ticker: AAPL) today amid a 1.2% dip in the price its shares. The 1.04 million contracts traded so far in the session compares to an average daily options volume for Apple over the past 10 days of roughly 750,000 contracts. The below snapshot displays the day’s option volume split out into call and put options across active strike prices. The chart includes monthly expiration options, while excluding weeklys. The 125.0 strike April 17 ’15 expiry calls and puts are most active today, but cease trading as markets close out another week this afternoon.
Implied volatility on the S&P 500 Index (Ticker: SPX) popped Friday morning amid a more than 1.0% decline in the index to the lowest level since April 9. The roughly 12% move higher in the reading of IV on SPX is perhaps the motivation for sellers of iron condors in the April 24 expiry options contracts. The trades were of different sizes and at different striking prices. One of the trades was constructed through the sale of the Apr 24 ’15 1875/1975 put spread against the sale of the Apr 24 ’15 2140/2210 call spread at a net premium of $0.55 per contract. The 1,500-lot trade makes maximum potential gains of approximately $82,500 as long as the SPX trades above 1975 and below 2140 at expiration next week. The smaller of the two condors yields a net credit of $0.50 per contract and involved the sale of the 1885/1985 put spread against the sale of the 2150/2210 call spread. The seller of the 500-lot iron condor stands ready to bank maximum possible profits of around $25,000 in the event that the index trades above 1985 and below 2150 at expiration. The chart below displays a one-week chart of the VIX, which rallied roughly 14% this morning to 14.44.
Option activity on Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. suggests some traders may have pulled the trigger on bullish positions on the firearms maker today. SWHC shares are soaring, up nearly 15% at $14.93 as of the time of this writing, after the company updated guidance for the fourth quarter and full fiscal 2015 year (ending April 30, 2015), stating that orders through the fiscal fourth quarter were stronger than previously expected. The company upped its guidance for the quarter, pushing shares in the name to the highest level since June 2014 and sparking heavier than usual options activity. With little more than 60 minutes remaining in the trading session, traders have pushed options volume on SWHC to more than 5,600 contracts as compared to the stock’s average daily options volume of around 400 contracts. The bulk of the activity is in call options, notably the May 15.0 strike contracts. Roughly 2,500 of the 15.0 strike calls have changed hands against zero open interest. Most of the volume appears to have been purchased at a premium of $0.45 each. Buyers of these options stand ready to profit at May expiration in the event that SWHC shares continue to rally, specifically if the stock tops an average breakeven price of $15.45. Smith & Wesson fourth-quarter earnings are estimated for release in the back-half of June.
Chart – SWHC 15.0 strike options most active, specifically May expiry calls
Heavy trading volume in shares of industrial conglomerate General Electric (Ticker: GE) caused its price to surge by 9.1% to $28.08 on Friday on news of further divestiture and a stock buyback program. Gains have accelerated in the afternoon following heavy option positioning earlier in the session. Some 225mm shares had traded by 2pm ET in comparison to typical volume of around 30mm. The share price jumped straight through the June high of $27.53 after call buying in the June series hinted of further gains. Some 49,000 call options have changed hands on Friday at the 29.0 strike price at an average premium of about 40-cents. The breakeven price for buyers of $29.40 implies a further gain for its shares of 4.7%, where the company last traded in April 2008. More recently, the stock peaked in December 2013 at $28.13 before arresting its decline at $23.41 in January. Before trading on Friday, investors held less than 3,000 open positions at the 29.0 strike for June expiration.
Chart – June 29 strike calls were the most actively traded contract as General Electric gains 9.1%
Bullish trades abound in Cypress Semiconductor options today, most notably a massive bull call spread initiated in the July expiry contracts. One strategist appears to have purchased 30,000 of the Jul 16.0 strike calls at a premium of $0.89 each and sold the same number of Jul 19.0 strike calls at a premium of $0.22 apiece. Net premium paid to put on the spread amounts to $0.67 per contract, thus establishing a breakeven share price of $16.67 on the trade. Cypress shares reached a 52-week high of $16.25 back on Friday, March 13th, and would need to rally 4.6% over the current level to exceed the breakeven point of $16.25. The spread generates maximum potential profits of $2.33 per contract in the event that CY shares surge more than 20% in the next four months to reach $19.00 by July expiration. Shares in Cypress are down 1.0% at $15.54 as of the time of this writing.
Chart – Three-month chart of CY (magenta line: b/e point, blue line: max profit)
With stories and analysis pointing to fewer and fewer physical places to store crude oil coupled at the hip with an ever-strengthening dollar, it’s hard to get optimistic on the outlook for energy prices. The cost of a barrel of WTI for April delivery has fallen again ahead of the Fed’s March meeting by 3.4% to $43.33 helping drive down shares in the United States Oil Fund (Ticker: USO) to a fresh 52-week low.
Since the start of March the price of USO shares have fallen from above $19.00 to $16.18 (-15%). Option traders posturing for even lower oil prices appear to be riding the crest of a wave. The number of open positions in bearish strike prices from 16.0-19.0 in the USO has increased by 44% to 1.33 million in the past two weeks and compares to bullish open interest at the same strikes of 370,600 contracts. Bears have built positions of 300,000 at the 15.0, 16.0 and 17.0 strikes as the slide in crude oil prices has picked-up its pace. Since the rebound ran out of steam on March 4, implied volatility in the April series has jumped from 42% to 54% today. In the options market, that implies traders currently expect the USO to land within a price range of $14.90 and $18.10. By the same token, May expiration crude prices, where implied volatility is running at 57%, currently dictate a price range covered by $37.75 and $50.25 for the cost of a barrel of crude.
Chart – Bearish USO put option open interest has surged to 1.3 million at strikes from 15.0 to 19.0
Shares in Lumber Liquidators (Ticker: LL) continue to rebound and last traded higher by 11.2% at $36.40 following the company’s investor call on Thursday. Implied volatility on its options has fallen by 12.1% to 87.7% having reached 127% as a result of the recent scandal. Option volume of 61,000 contracts is evenly split between calls and puts as implied volatility at higher strikes continues to soften faster than at lower strikes. The following chart from the IB Volatility Lab compares implied volatility readings in the April 17 expiration across available strikes with the volatility structure of one week ago. Under normal conditions, the cost of a 10% out-of-the-money call should be around the same as a 10% out-of-the-money put. Last week, downside volatility of 99.2% was 3.2-points higher than upside volatility. As the entire volatility structure softens in response to a rising share price, option traders are softening the volatility level at higher strike prices, forcing the difference to widen to 4.2-points. As the chart shows, downside volatility remains elevated at increasingly lower strike prices.
Chart – Time lapse skew on Lumber Liquidators options
ADR shares in Brazil’s state-controlled oil and gas giant Petrobras (Ticker: PBR) continue to jump around following the recent announcement that investigations were underway connecting politicians with payouts from company officials. How that goes, nobody knows. The revelation is further bad news for investors who have seen PBR shares slump in the last six months from almost $21.00 to $5.28 on Wednesday. Around a month ago, when the shares stood at $6.45, investors plowed into bearish options in a big way, taking on a position of 107,000 puts expiring in July. At the time the positions were made, shares in Petrobras would have needed to fall by a further 22% to land at the 5.0 strike price. Option implied volatility that day at 67% has increased today to 72% as uncertainty grows. Meanwhile, the options have gained in value, boosted by rising volatility and stand today at 71-cents. We figure that without the volatility boost, the options would be worth 8-cents less. Still, that’s a healthy gain from the initial 42-cent premium paid back in February.
Chart – Despite a rebound, implied volatility continues to reflect uncertainty
The first trading session of the week is only halfway complete, yet options volume on Lumber Liquidators has already surpassed the stock’s average daily options volume of around 38,000 contracts amid continued vicious selling in the underlying. Shares in LL are down another 11% today and trading below $30.00, the lowest level since June 2012, as the stock continues to suffer in the wake of a 60 Minutes documentary and comments from short sellers. Options implied volatility is up more than 12% on the session at 115% as of midday.
Snapshots of option volumes and open interest across all expiries and striking prices on Lumber Liquidators reveals notable differences. Open interest in call options is heaviest in what are now far out-of-the-money contracts, notably the 65.0 strike calls, while put open interest is greatest in deep in-the-money contracts, namely the 60.0 strike puts.
Meantime, today’s action in LL options is dispersed across a wider swath of striking prices, perhaps as some traders look to position for further damage to the share price. March expiry put options at the 17.0, 20.0, 21.0 and 22.0 strikes are in play today, roughly 25-40% out-of-the-money versus today’s current share price.
Chart – LL open interest levels across expiries and striking prices
Options volume on Alibaba Group Holdings is poised to end at the session at approximately three times the average daily level, with volume in BABA contracts approaching 300,000 contracts versus average daily volume of 105,000 contracts and less than 30 minutes to go before the closing bell. Shares in BABA are down 3.0% as of the time of this writing to stand at $81.50, off the intraday and fresh 52-week low of $80.03 set earlier this afternoon.
Across all available expiries, the 80.0 strike put options are seeing notable activity, with cumulative volume in excess of 30,000 contracts. As for trading in BABA calls across available expiries, the 85.0, 87.5 and 90.0 strike contracts attracted the most action.
Chart – Above average day for Alibaba options volume
The Chinese stock market has effectively doubled over the past year and a full-scale mania has gotten underway with mainland individual investors opening millions of brokerage accounts a month. This is a good thing, not a b...
In her 2014 memoir “Hard Choices,” Clinton reiterated her support for human-rights advocates in China. She specifically criticized the Great Firewall, writing that after she made comments about the right to dissent in China in 2011, “censors went right to work erasing mentions of my message from the Internet.”
Six of the eight indexes on our world watch list traded lower this week, with Germany's DAX down 5.57%. The best performing of the six losers was the S&P 500, down only 0.99%. The big positive outlier was China's Shanghai Composite, up a jaw-dropping 6.27% for the week and now up 32.54% in 2015. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was a less conspicuous outlier with a 1.40% weekly gain.
Here is an overlay of the eight for a sense of their comparative performance so far in 2015.
Here is a table of the 2015 data performance, sorted from high to low, along with the interim highs for the eight indexes. All eight indexes are in the green, with the top five gains ranging 12.62% to 32.54%. Not bad for for the first three-and-a-half months of the year. At the bottom of the list, the S&P 500 is up 1.08%.
When it comes to investing in the stock market, do you feel leadership can be important. If so, you might want to pay attention to price action from a key global stock index. China has been in the news for hot stock market performance that past couple of months. When it comes to the past couple of years, Germany has been stronger than China and the S&P 500. In the past two years the DAX index has gained 18% more than the S&P 500, which is a 60% greater return.
The chart below looks at conditions in the DAX at this time and what message is coming from this index.
As we get into the heart of earnings season and anticipate the GDP report for Q1, the investor spotlight has been taken off the Federal Reserve and timing of its first interest rate hike, at least temporarily. Even though Q1 economic growth will undoubtedly look weak, the future remains bright for the U.S economy – even though many multinationals will struggle with top-line growth due to the strong dollar – and any near-term selloff resulting from weak economic or earnings news should be bought yet again in expectation of better results for the balance of the year. High sector correlations remain a concern, reflectin...
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As noted earlier, with equities now a barren wasteland of volume (and liquidity), the last remaining HFT master (of whale order frontrunning)has been forced to go to those asset classes where organic flow is still abundant such as FX, courtesy of central banks engaged in global currency wars. However, HFTs rea...
Kim Parlee interviews Phil on Money Talk. Be sure to watch the replays if you missed the show live on Wednesday night (it was recorded on Monday). As usual, Phil provides an excellent program packed with macro analysis, important lessons and trading ideas. ~ Ilene
The replay is now available on BNN's website. For the three part series, click on the links below.
Part 1 is here (discussing the macro outlook for the markets)
Part 2 is here. (discussing our main trading strategies)
Part 3 is here. (reviewing our pick of th...
In my last post (Part 1 of this article), I looked at alternative ETFs that could be used as hedges against the corrections that we have seen during that long 2 year bull run. Looking at the results, it seems that for short (less than a month) corrections, a VIX ETF like VXX could actually be a viable candidate to hedge or speculate on the way down. Another alternative ETF was TMF, a long Treasuries ETF which banks on the fact that when markets go down, money tends to pack into treasuries viewed as safe instruments. In some cases, TMF even outperformed the usual hedging instruments like leveraged ETFs. There could of course be other factors at play since some of 2014 corrections were related to geopolitical events which are certain...
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PSW Members - well, what a year for biotechs! The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down! The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months. What could go wrong?
Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys...it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.
Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies. A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, includin...
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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