For the Dow Jones Industrial Average, 22,000 is within reach this morning, as U.S. stock futures rally in the wake of a better-than-expected Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) second-quarter earnings report. AAPL stock was last up 6% premarket as iPhone sales met expectations. Additionally, Wall Street is looking forward to APD’s private-sector jobs report as well as another influx of corporate earnings reports.
At last check, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.23%, Nasdaq-100 futures had added 0.77% and S&P 500 futures were lagging with a gain of 0.11%.
On the options front, traders continued to sit on the sidelines on Tuesday, as volume arrived well below average. Overall, about 12.4 million calls and 11.6 million puts changed hands as the calendar rolled over to August. Meanwhile, the CBOE single-session equity put/call volume ratio ticked higher to 0.63, while the 10-day moving average held at 0.62.
Diving into Tuesday’s options activity, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has seen a slight drawdown in call volume as traders weigh a drop in ads on the social media site. Meanwhile, Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) was bolstered by a bullish note from analysts at Citi, while Weatherford International Plc (NYSE:WFT) saw put volume surge out of the blue.
Facebook Inc (FB)
Earlier this week, Facebook reported strong second-quarter earnings, as revenue soared 71% — enough to double rival Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL, NASDAQ:GOOG) growth. But, in the report, Facebook reminded investors that it was reducing the number of ads that will show up on users Facebook news feeds, and that could impact growth going forward. FB stock showed little response to the revelation, mostly because CFO David Wehner dropped this particular bomb in last year’s second-quarter report, noting that ad load would be a “less significant factor driving revenue” in mid-2017.
Still, that doesn’t mean that FB options traders aren’t preparing for the fallout from this move. For instance, call volume has trickled lower over the past month, with Tuesday’s activity showing that calls only made up 61% of the 273,000 contracts traded on FB. In the month prior to Facebook’s earnings report, calls, on average, made up more than 65% of daily activity.
That said, most of this trepidation has spilled over into back month options series. For instance, the front-month August put/call open interest ratio currently rests at a bullish reading of 0.65, compared to the back-month October reading of 0.87. In short, traders appear to be discounting a bit of a negative reaction to any drawdown in sales growth due to Facebook’s decision to cut back on its ad load.
Micron Technology, Inc. (MU)
MU stock has been hit hard in the past couple of days, as Wall Street hammered the shares on reports of a growing DRAM production glut in the semiconductor market. However, in a bullish research note yesterday, Citigroup downplayed the issue, stating that “fears of memory overcapacity” were overblown and that capital spending growth in the sector was too little to cause the current downturn in MU stock. Citigroup maintained its “buy” rating and $45 price target on MU.
The damage has already been done to MU stock, however, with the shares down nearly 9% in the past week and a half. Options traders, however, remain undeterred, sending more than 263,000 contracts across the tape on Tuesday, with call making up a hefty 73% of the day’s take.
What’s more, trader appear to be betting on an immediate rebound from current levels, as the August put/call OI ratio rests at 0.40, with calls more than doubling puts among near-term options. That said, the most popular strike remains the deep out-of-the-money Aug $34 call, where more than 61,000 contracts reside, indicating that these calls may have been open for a while.
Weatherford International Plc (WFT)
Oil services company Weatherford International reported earnings this week, but they were nothing really to crow about. Revenue was up 37% year over year, but the turnaround many investors were looking for was nowhere to be found in the report. WFT shares, meanwhile, spiked on the news, then pulled back to remain mired in congestion in the $4.50 region.
WFT doesn’t usually attract large influxes of options activity, but this quarterly report managed to spark at least one trader’s interest. On Tuesday, volume soared to a near-term high of more than 537,000 contracts, with puts snapping up roughly 90% of the day’s take. Even more interesting is that one trader appears to be responsible for nearly all of WFT’s put activity.
According to Trade-Alert.com, late yesterday afternoon, two large blocks of WFT puts totaling roughly 200,000 contracts traded on the Sept $4.50 strike. Both blocks traded at the bid price of 32 cents, or $32 per contract, and implied volatility fell on the option while OI rose to 202,265 contracts — confirming the sell-to-open activity. In other words, this trader expects WFT to trade north of $4.50 when Sept options expire next month, and will collect a cool $6.4 million if he’s correct.
As of this writing, Joseph Hargett did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.