U.S. stock futures are headed higher this morning ahead of a raft of corporate quarterly earnings reports, the Federal Reserve’s symposium in Jackson Hole and a string of economic reports. For the Fed, the most anticipated speech won’t arrive until Friday, however, when Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen takes the stage. As for economic data, weekly jobless claims are on tap alongside July’s existing homes sales figures.
Against this backdrop, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures are up 0.31%, Nasdaq-100 futures have added 0.38% and S&P 500 futures have gained 0.29%.
On the options front, volume was anemic on Tuesday, with only about 11.3 million calls and 10.8 million puts crossing the tape. On the CBOE, the single-session equity put/call volume ratio edged higher to 0.58, while the 10-day moving average retreated to a one-week low of 0.70.
Turning to Wednesday’s options activity, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) saw call option volume decline slightly on Wednesday following news that the company was backing away from building a self-driving car. Elsewhere, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) extended its post-earnings gains following a pair of bullish broker comments. Finally, Snap Inc (NYSE:SNAP) won’t leave the headlines this week, piping up yesterday to hint at its own TV streaming service.
Apple Inc (AAPL)
You can finally put to rest your dreams of driving an Apple car — or having one drive you, as the case may be. According to CEO Tim Cook, Apple is abandoning its plans to build its own self-driving car, choosing instead to focus on autonomous systems. The New York Times reported that after years of working on Project Titan, Apple shifted gears due to complications related to the sheer size of the self-driving car project.
The move is a better fit for Apple in the long run, but the announcement still took the wind out of AAPL options bulls’ sails. Volume on Wednesday pulled back from recent ramped up levels, falling back to over 286,000 contracts, or slightly more than half its average daily volume.
Calls were also on the wane, making up just 62% of the day’s take. As a result, the September put/call open interest ratio has begun to creep higher this week, rising to 0.53 from Tuesday’s reading of 0.52. With the continued attention to call options, we may be seeing a round of profit taking following the autonomous car news.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA)
BABA stock continued its assault on the charts on Wednesday, trending higher once again amid a continued barrage of bullish sentiment. The Chinese e-commerce giant was targeted yet again by the brokerage community, as Oppenheimer lifted its price target to $190 from $165, while MKM Partners lifted its target to $220 from $177. Both cited Alibaba’s strong growth track record and indicated that they believed “investors are undervaluing the potential growth outlook” for fiscal 2018 through 2020.
BABA options traders have been emboldened by this influx of bullish sentiment. On Wednesday, volume remained well above average, with 234,000 contracts changing hands on BABA stock. Calls also dominated trading activity, making up 68% of yesterday’s take. That said, much of this call activity is likely related to profit taking, as the September put/call OI ratio has risen from 0.45 on Friday last week to 0.51 today.
Snap Inc (SNAP)
Snap found itself back in the headlines yesterday after Nick Bell, the company’s vice president of content, indicated that Snap will likely move toward scripted TV content next year. But Bell emphasized that Snap wasn’t looking to be a TV killer: “We’re really capturing the audience who are not probably consuming TV at the same rate and pace of engagement that they once were.” Bell also quipped that he wants to turn “the remote control for your TV consumption.”
The news sent an already hungry contingent of SNAP bull scrambling back into the market, pushing the stock nearly 4% higher to take out the $15 per share. SNAP options traders once again chased the rally, sending more than 175,000 contracts across the tape on Wednesday.
Calls were the most popular contract, making up an above average 64% of the day’s volume. What’s more, as I noted yesterday, much of SNAP’s recent call action has been of the buy-to-open variety, as the September put/call OI ratio declined overnight from 1.02 to 0.90 — and down from 1.07 on Monday.
As of this writing, Joseph Hargett did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.