U.S. stock futures are mixed this morning, with tech leading a rebound on the Nasdaq Composite, while the S&P 500 Index attempts to end a four-day losing streak. Political concerns remain front and center, as progress on the Republican tax plan is being watched closely, while the risks of a government shutdown without a new spending bill continue to rise. Friday’s November employment report is also in focus.
On the options front, volume was pretty average for this time of year. Overall, about 16.6 million calls and 13.1 million puts changed hands yesterday. As for the CBOE, the single-session equity put/call volume ratio rose to 0.67, but the 10-day moving average fell to its lowest level since December 2016 at 0.58.
Taking a closer look at Wednesday’s options activity, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) call options spiked after Evercore ISI issued a bullish note on the social media giant and its l
eadership of the FANG group. Elsewhere, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMD) stock reclaimed double digits after the company scored a deal with Microsoft Corporation’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Azure cloud computing division. Finally, Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) was downgraded at Cascend Securities on soft Model 3 demand.
Options activity on FB stock was brisk yesterday, as more than 245,000 contracts crossed the tape — roughly 1.14 times the stock’s daily average. Calls made up 60% of the day’s take, which, while below average for FB, was still a win for the bulls given weakness in the tech sector.
Call activity appears to be related to yesterday’s report from Evercore ISI. The firm said that FB stock will lead the FANG group higher in 2018, with no correction in sight. Evercore also noted that the next wave of technology could be even bigger than the last, bolstering the bullish case for Facebook stock.
FB options traders, however, still appear to be shellshocked from the tech selloff. The put/call open interest ratio for the front-month December series rests at 0.86 for FB stock — a near-term high for the shares. In other words, options traders have grown increasingly bearish on FB stock’s short-term prospects.
That said, peak put OI of 36,000 contracts at the $185 strike is now trading in the money, indicating that speculators may not be anticipating heavier losses for FB stock.
AMD stock has been one of the hardest hit in the tech selloff. The shares dipped into single-digit territory this week, and only just reclaimed $10 with yesterday’s close. Helping to drive AMD higher was news that the company’s Epyc datacenter chips were now making their way into Microsoft Azure cloud servers. Microsoft currently dominates the cloud services market, outstripping even Amazon.com, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Amazon Web Services unit in terms of revenue.
It was a big win for AMD, but options traders responded with little fanfare. In fact, calls only made up 41% of the more than 210,000 contracts traded on AMD stock yesterday. What’s more, Trade-Alert.com data indicates that one trader may have opened a rather bearish trade on the stock.
Specifically, a block of 30,000 January 2018 $12 strike puts were bought to open at the same time as a similar block of January 2018 $12 strike calls were sold. This trade is what’s known as a synthetic short among options traders, as it simulates the returns of shorting a stock like AMD without having to borrow the shares.
TSLA stock rebounded more than 3% yesterday, despite an influx of bearish headlines in the financial media. First, Ross Gerber, CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management said that now was a “… very nervous time for Tesla” when talking about the company’s deliveries — especially the Model 3.
Second, Cascend Securities downgraded TSLA stock to “sell” from “hold” noting that Tesla Model 3 customers may look somewhere else with deliveries currently pushed out to 2019.
The news impacted TSLA options activity, as puts and calls traded in near parity despite the stock’s rebound. Volume came in at 142,000 contracts on the day.
As for short-term traders, the December put/call OI ratio has risen to a near-term high of 1.19, as puts continue to be added at a faster rate than calls. The lion’s share of put activity has been centered on the December $300 strike, where more than 6,000 TSLA put options are currently open.
As of this writing, Joseph Hargett did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.