U.S. stock futures are trading higher this morning and now sit a whisker from new records.
Ahead of the bell, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.32%, and S&P 500 futures are higher by 0.22%. Nasdaq-100 futures have added 0.07%.
In the options pits, calls continued their recent trend of trouncing put demand while overall volume came in near average levels. By the time the closing bell rang, 21.7 million calls and 16.5 million puts traded. Meanwhile, over at the CBOE, the single-session equity put/call volume ratio remained near its two-month low at 0.55. With the spate of low readings in September, the 10-day moving average continues to be pulled lower to close under 0.62.
A diverse group of equities landed atop the most-active options leaderboard. Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) was flooded with options volume ahead of today’s dividend payout. Square (NYSE:SQ) fell to a nine-month low on above-average volume. Finally, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) rallied for its seventh day in a row, but resistance overhead gave a reason for put buying.
Let’s take a closer look:
Consumer staples have enjoyed a consistent upward march this year, and nowhere has the trend been more obvious than in Coca-Cola. Plunging interest rates are creating renewed demand for dividend payers. KO stock’s 2.92% stands tall compared to the 10-year yield, which is plumbing to the depths near 1.75%.
And it is this juicy dividend that options traders have to thank for Thursday’s explosive volume. The boom in call volume was driven by investors seeking short-term control of the stock for eligibility to the upcoming 40 cent quarterly payment. KO is trading ex-dividend this morning requiring you to have owned it by yesterday’s close to participate in the next pay-day.
As is usual with dividend targeting, calls drove the bus with activity zooming to 721%. In total, 206,418 contracts changed hands with 95% of the tally coming from calls.
Implied volatility pushed to 20% landing it at the 29th percentile of its one-year range. Premiums are baking in daily moves of 69 cents or 1.3%.
The broad market is a whisker from record highs, but some sick stocks are sinking toward 52-week lows. You can count Square shares among the ill. SQ fell for the fifth straight day yesterday amid increasing distribution.
And the charts leave little room for optimism moving forward. The next potential support zone isn’t until $52.50, which is 9% lower. While buyers could swoop in to the save the stock before then, I certainly wouldn’t bet on it with every major moving average now pointing lower.
On the options trading front, puts outpaced calls by a slim margin. Total activity climbed to 250% of the average daily volume, with 159,984 contracts traded. Puts accounted for 52% of the sum.
Despite the deterioration, we’ve seen virtually zero fear. Implied volatility just sank to 39% or the 6th percentile of its one-year range. Premiums are cheap, so if you’re banking on the bears, long puts or put spreads are attractive.
Intel is on the rise, notching its seventh straight daily gain yesterday. The nascent recovery has been strong enough to pull the 20-day and 50-day moving averages higher. This confirms buyers have officially wrested control of the short- and intermediate-term trends.
INTC stock now stands at a critical juncture; $53.25 is a powerful resistance zone that has kept a lid on INTC ever since April’s disastrous earnings drop. Tack on the fact that Intel shares are extremely overbought and this is as logical a level as any for the stock to pause. At any rate, it’s not a low-risk entry, so I’d caution against piling in here. A pullback would provide a better spot to jump in.
As far as options trading goes, puts proved more popular despite the day’s rally. Activity swelled to 155% of the average daily volume, with 101,473 total contracts traded; 56% of the trading came from puts.
Anxiety has been easing alongside the price rally. Implied volatility has fallen to 25% or the 23rd percentile of its one-year range. Premiums are pricing in daily moves of 83 cents or 1.6%.
As of this writing, Tyler Craig didn’t hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Check out his recently released Bear Market Survival Guide to learn how to defend your portfolio against market volatility.