U.S. stock futures are plunging this morning. Another key exit from the Donald Trump White House has set investors on edge, as Gary Cohn, the head of President Trump’s National Economic Council, resigned. Cohn was considered a moderating voice in the White House, and opposed Trump’s tariff proposal.
As a result, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures have plummeted 1.02%, S&P 500 futures have dropped 0.73% and Nasdaq-100 futures are down 0.60%.
Turning to the options pits, volume was surprisingly light yesterday. Only about 16.3 million calls and 13.8 million puts changed hands. The CBOE single-session equity put/call volume ratio edged lower to 0.52 — a three week low. The 10-day moving average slipped to 0.62.
Taking a closer look at yesterday’s options activity, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) saw an uptick in call volume after Chinese e-commerce strategist firm Baozun reported stronger-than-expected earnings. Meanwhile, Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) drew mixed options activity ahead of today’s FDA panel review of Amgen’s sBLA for Blincyto. Finally, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMD) continued to see extremely heavy put option volume.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA)
Chinese e-commerce digital solutions company Baozun posted impressive earnings yesterday. Alibaba is the company’s biggest investor. Baozun helps firms like Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE) and Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) compete in China. The company said earnings surged 128% year-over-year, with revenue up 23%.
The strong performance was also taken as a sign of continued strength in China’s e-commerce market, in which Alibaba is arguably the biggest player. As such, BABA stock saw a considerable uptick in options volume stateside yesterday.
Volume came in at 270,000 contracts, or about 1.15 times Alibaba’s daily average. Calls garnered 67% of the day’s take. Looking out to April reveals that BABA remains well off last year’s peak bullish sentiment backdrop. Currently, the April put/call open interest ratio comes in at 0.89, with calls and puts in near parity.
Alibaba options traders may be factoring in a trade war given the current economic stance from the Trump administration. However, Alibaba still has a minimal presence in the U.S., and should be minimally impacted should such a situation arise.
Amgen Inc. (AMGN)
Amgen is looking for label expansion on its Blincyto treatment for patients with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The FDA is scheduled to announce it’s final decision on March 29, but its Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee is set to review the data at a meeting today.
Amgen stock options traders hoping for early indications of a decision loaded up on both puts and calls yesterday. Volume rose to 168,000 contracts, nearly quadrupling AMGN’s daily average. Opinions were divided, however, with calls only making up 49% of yesterday’s activity.
The April series has seen the most activity ahead of this month’s FDA announcement, and AMGN traders are decidedly bullish. Currently, the April put/call OI ratio comes in at 0.53, with calls nearly doubling puts for the series.
Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD)
On Monday, I called out a series of rather large put option block trades on Advanced Micro Devices that took place last Friday. My take was that AMD options traders (or trader) were betting on a short-term decline in the stock, but were looking to protect an existing stock position or looking to pick the shares up cheap.
That heavy put activity has continued all week. Puts made up 80% of Monday’s heavier-than-usual options volume, and topped 85% of yesterday’s activity. Overall, 628,000 contracts traded on AMD on Tuesday, or roughly 3.5 times the stock’s daily average.
Trade-Alert.com data suggests the activity remains the same as last Friday’s. Large, out-of-the-money blocks of AMD weekly March 23 series and monthly April series puts traded marked at the bid price. The largest was a 100,000 contract block at the March 23 series $11 strike put, which traded at a bid price of 33 cents.
Once again, it appears that AMD traders are either betting on technical support to collect put option premiums, or looking to pick the stock up at a target price of $11 per share. Either situation is bullish in nature, despite the heavy play put options are receiving.
As of this writing, Joseph Hargett did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.