Thursday’s Vital Data: American Airlines, Alibaba and Microsoft

U.S. stock futures are still looking uneasy after suffering one of the worst days of 2018.

Rising interest rates continues to bear the blame for the markets tempter tantrum. Adding further fuel to these concerns is the momentum unwind. Tech stocks, which include the largest gainers this year, bore the brunt of the damage yesterday and delivered a sucker punch to market sentiment.

Ahead of the Bell, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are down 0.21% and S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq-100 futures are roughly flat.

In the options pits, panic ruled the day driving volume levels through the stratosphere. Specifically, about 26.2 million calls and 30.5 million puts changed hands on the session.

Curiously, over at the CBOE, the single-session equity put/call volume ratio didn’t rise as much as you would have expected. It sits at 0.74 which is lower than last week’s jump. The 10-day moving average climbed to a five-month high at 0.65.

Options activity heavily favored puts on the equities front as well yesterday. American Airlines (NYSE:AAL) shares are suffering over rising fuel costs and Hurricane worries. Alibaba (NASDAQ:BABA) continued its slide amid trade war fears. Finally, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) succumbed to the rout in tech stocks.

Let’s take a closer look:

American Airlines (AAL)

American Airlines shares extended their losses yesterday, falling 5.8%. The slide comes after the ailing airliner had fallen in seven of the past eight trading sessions. Year-to-date, AAL is now down 40%.

Blame for the selling pressures lies partly with rising jet fuel prices, which are eating into profit expectations. Also flight cancellations from Hurricane Florence and potentially Hurricane Michael are worrying investors.

On the options trading front, activity swelled to 243% of the average daily volume, with 108,013 total contracts traded. Despite the drubbing, calls accounted for 77% of the total.

In light of the high volatility descending on the stock, options premiums have expanded dramatically. At 53%, the implied volatility now stands at its highest level of the past year.

Alibaba (BABA)

The pain in Alibaba was particularly acute yesterday, with the Chinese internet giant falling 6% on heavy volume. Chinese stocks continue to be hampered by the ongoing tariff issues between America and China. On top of that, tech stocks are seeing massive distribution as traders abandon the sector in search of safety elsewhere.

On the options trading front, the ratio of calls versus puts was balanced on the day as activity lifted to 226% of the average daily volume, with 581,462 total contracts traded. Calls accounted for 52% of the total, slightly outpacing puts.

As with most stocks after yesterday’s bloodbath, BABA options premiums now sit at their highest levels of the year. The implied volatility is 52% and sits at the 100th percentile.

Microsoft (MSFT)

The news was lacking for MSFT yesterday, so I suspect the culprit for the increased interest was simply the fleeing of investors from all things technology related. The stock had been holding up well, but finally succumbed to the pressure on Wednesday falling 5.4%.

On the options trading front, activity lifted to 207% of the average daily volume, with 274,623 total contracts traded. Like its predecessors, MSFT saw call options steal the show accounting for 64% of the day’s take.

The volatility surge is being felt in MSFT options as well. Implied volatility lifted to 34% and now stands at the 84th percentile of its one-year range.

As of this writing, Tyler Craig didn’t hold positions in any of the aforementioned securities. Want insightful education on how to trade? Check out his trading blog, Tales of a Technician.

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