A second consecutive down day for shares in airline stocks spurred heavy trading traffic in options across the largest market-cap names, including United Continental Holdings, Inc. (Ticker: UAL), Delta Air Lines, Inc. (Ticker: DAL), American Airlines Inc. (Ticker: AAL), and JetBlue Airways Corporation (Ticker: JBLU). Shares in these air carriers are down roughly 6.0%, 5.0%, 5.5% and 4.0%, respectively, as of the time of this writing amid higher oil prices and in the wake of Lufthansa’s cut to its 2014 profit guidance on Wednesday.
Options on American Airlines and Delta Air Lines are seeing the most volume overall with more than 55,000 contracts traded on each, while JetBlue is experiencing the highest volume relative to its average daily options volume. Volume in JBLU options is nearing 40,000 contracts just before midday in New York, which is approximately four times its average daily reading of around 9,200 contracts.
Meanwhile, smaller air carrier, Hawaiian Holdings, Inc. (Ticker: HA), Hawaii’s biggest and longest-serving airline, with a market cap of around $816 million (vs. roughly $33 billion market-cap for Delta Air Lines and $29 billion for American Airlines), also attracted heavier than usual options activity. Upwards of 4,100 contracts have changed hands on Hawaiian Holdings as of 11:30 am ET, which compares to average daily volume for the stock of around 640 contracts. Shares in HA are down 3.5% on the session at $14.65 as of the time of this writing. Hawaiian shares on Monday of this week traded up to a record high of $16.49.
As the chart below shows, shares in the air carriers mentioned have lost some altitude lately, but the stocks are still up, in some cases significantly, for the most recent six month period.
Chart – Six-month chart of AAL, DAL, UAL, JBLU & HA
UAL – United Continental Holdings Inc. – Airline stocks are bucking the trend on Thursday, flying high amid a down day for U.S. equities. Shares in United Continental Holdings increased as much as 12.6% during the first half of the session to a record high of $46.19 following the release of the company’s December operational results and after several analysts raised their fourth-quarter earnings estimates on the carrier.
Trading in UAL call options expiring this month and next suggests some traders may be positioning for the price of the underlying to continue to climb in the near term. The 17 Jan ’14 $46 and $47 strike calls traded more than 900 times by midday in New York, trumping open interest levels in each case. Time and sales data suggests most of the calls were purchased, with the average asking premium paid for the $46 strike calls near $0.83 each and $0.39 per contract on the $47 strike calls as of the time of this writing. The 21 Feb ’14 $46 strike call options also attracted fresh interest, with around 1,400 lots traded against open interest of 100 contracts. It looks like most of the volume was purchased at an average premium of $2.27 each. Traders snapping up the February expiry $46 calls may be looking for the stock to rally leading up to and perhaps following the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report, which is likely to be released in two weeks time. Buyers of the Feb $46 calls stand ready to profit at expiration next month in the event that UAL shares rally 7.6% over the current price of $44.85 to exceed the average breakeven point on the upside at $48.27.
Wasn't it just 2 days ago that the EU was all set to pop the ESM to $1.25Tn and the IMF was going to add another Trillion and the Fed was talking about more QE in the $1.25Tn range, which plunged the Dollar to multi-week lows? Shouldn't adding 6% of the entire planet's GDP in additional stimulus give us more than a one-day pop in the markets?
As I pointed out in Monday's Morning Alert to Members – these are all just RUMORS and my conclusion in the Alert was:
Despite the bullish turn of events (which we anticipated last week) we're more inclined to cash out our bullish trades into the excitement and press our bear bets and TOMORROW, if we're still over our levels – THEN we will scramble to add some aggressive bullish trades to our virtual portfolios. Again, I cannot stress enough that CASH is my preferred position because this market is tough to call and you need to be very flexible and very nimble to trade it.
We proceeded as planned and, so far, we haven't had any reason to capitulate and get more bullish and that is both surprising and disappointing as this is the end of the first quarter of 2012 – if not now – when? As David Fry notes:
Monday’s rally was typical as we head toward the end of the quarter. Hedge fund performance fees are on the line and any way to boost these profits is job one. Top holdings for hedge funds include the usual suspects: AAPL, IBM, INTC, BAC, DIS, HD etc.
With little volume it’s easy for algos and hedge funds to prop stocks on little hard news. Tuesday we briefly saw more of this. Just as markets were weakening a story appeared using the Fed’s favorite oracle, the WSJ, as Fed governor Rosengren stated, “more stimulus is on the table”. Immediately HFT algos jumped and markets rose if only briefly.
It's very exciting for us as PLCN (see Thursday's notes) went all the way up to $736 on Monday and sold off on some pretty heavy trading yesterday. Slowly but surely, our negative premise is beginning to take shape as Piper Jaffray is finally catching up with us and noting "a sharp decline in unique visitors to Priceline's booking.com" from growth of 61 percent during the…
UAL - United Continental Holdings, Inc. – A three-legged options combination play on United Continental suggests one strategist expects the price of the underlying to rebound by June expiration. Shares in UAL are down 2.25% at $20.75 as of 12:05pm in New York trade. The contrarian player is positioning for the medium-term rally by lowering the cost of buying a debit call spread with the sale of out-of-the-money put options. The trader sold 10,000 puts at the June $19 strike, to buy the 10,000-lot June $22/$26 call spread, for which he received a net credit of $0.10 per contract. The investor at least keeps the net credit as long as shares in UAL exceed $19.00 through expiration day. Additional profits are available to the bullish trader in the event that United Continental’s shares reverse course to rally 6.0% over the current price of $20.75 to trade above $22.00 in the next couple of months to expiration. Including the net credit, the investor may pocket maximum potential profits of $4.10 per contract on the transaction if the price of the underlying stock jumps 25.3% to exceed $26.00 at expiration in June.
HBC - HSBC Holdings PLC – It looks like one options investor raised bullish expectations on Europe’s biggest bank this morning with shares in HSBC Holdings currently trading 1.0% higher on the session at $54.44 as of 11:25am. The financial services provider’s shares were higher in European trading as well on sentiment that upcoming results from a government-sponsored Independent Commission on Banking will be less thorny than some investors initially anticipated. The trader responsible for the majority of options volume generated on HBC thus far today appears to be rolling a previously established bullish stance up to the next available strike price in the…
UAL - United Continental Holdings, Inc. – The airline operator’s shares rose 4.3% this morning to an intraday high of $23.76, rebounding 9.7% off of its lowest point of the week at $21.65, but still trading substantially lower than last week’s closing price of $27.02. Shares relinquished some of the earlier gains this afternoon to stand 1.65% higher on the session at $23.16 as of 12:15pm in New York. At least one options strategist is positioning for UAL’s shares to continue recovering in the next couple of months. It looks like the investor employed April contract ratio call spreads to prepare for a sizable, albeit limited, correction higher by expiration day. The trader appears to have purchased approximately 3,000 in-the-money calls at the April $22 strike for an average premium of $2.49 apiece, and sold roughly 6,000 calls up at the April $27 strike for an average premium of $0.52 each. The net cost of the transaction amounts to an average of $1.45 per contract, and positions the trader to profit in the event that UAL’s shares rally 1.25% over the current price of $23.16 to surpass the average breakeven point on the upside at $23.45 by April expiration. Maximum potential profits of $3.55 per contract are available to the trader should shares in United Continental Holdings jump 16.6% to settle at $27.00 at expiration in a couple of months. The sale of twice as many higher-strike call options expose the investor to losses should the stock fly higher than he expects within the time remaining to expiration. Profits give way to losses on this strategy if shares in UAL jump 31.9% to exceed the upper breakeven price of $30.55 by April expiration day. The call options transacted in the ratio spreads represent opening positions given the minimal levels of open interest observed at either strike price.…
Today’s tickers: UAL, KSS, ANN, KO, SINA, XLF, FRX & OI
UAL - United Continental Holdings, Inc. – The world’s largest carrier jumped up on our ‘most active by options volume’ market scanner earlier today after one bullish options player purchased a large call spread in the December contract. Shares in United Continental rose 0.90% this afternoon to trade at $27.42 as of 3:00 pm. The investor purchased approximately 11,200 calls at the December $29 strike for a premium of $0.72 each, and sold the same number of calls at the higher December $31 strike at a premium of $0.32 each. Paying a net $0.40 per contract for the spread, the investor is prepared to profit should shares in UAL surge 7.2% over the current price of $27.42 to surpass the effective breakeven point to the upside at $29.40 by expiration day. The trader is poised to accumulate maximum potential profits of $1.60 per contract, roughly $1.792 million, if the airline operator’s shares jump 13.05% and trade above $31.00 by expiration in December.
KSS - Kohl’s Corp. – Massive prints in Kohl’s Corp. call and put options caught our eye this afternoon. Shares of the department store operator that sells nationally recognized as well as privately branded goods increased as much as 4.165% in the second half of the session to touch an intraday high of $52.76. It looks like the investor responsible for the mammoth transaction sold 50,000 puts at the December $50 strike for a premium of $0.85 each, and purchased the same number of calls up at the December $57.5 strike at a premium of $0.30 apiece. The risk reversal was tied to the sale of 2.15 million shares of the underlying stock at a price of $52.12 on a 0.43 delta. The investor receives a net credit…
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
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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...
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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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