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JCP Options Volume Well Above Average As Shares Pop

Options volume on troubled retailer J.C. Penney Co. (Ticker: JCP) exploded Thursday morning to top 230,000 contracts during the first hour of the trading session, which is nearly three times the stock’s average daily reading for the metric. The surge in options activity on JCP accompanies a more than 20% rally in the price of the underlying to $7.50 today after the company reported its first profit in more than two years in the fourth quarter amid signs of progress with the turnaround at the retailer. Shares increased to the highest level since mid-January following Penney’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

The most traded call options on JCP as of the time of this writing are the 21 Mar ’14 7.0 strike calls, with roughly 23,000 contracts in play (this is approximately 70% of open existing interest at that strike of around 33,800 contracts). Time and sales data from this morning suggests most of the volume changing hands at that strike today was purchased at a premium of $0.75 each. Buyers of in-the-money call options could be buying to open near-term bullish positions on the stock or adjusting previously established positions on the heels of the sharp rally in the stock overnight. Traders getting long the calls at $0.75 per contract today may profit at expiration next month if shares in the retailer rally another 3.3% over today’s high of $7.50 to exceed the effective breakeven point at $7.75. 


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