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Financial Bulls Pile Into MetLife

By David Russell, reporter at OptionMonster

NEW YORK -- Financials have been on a northward journey for months, and the bulls want to go places with MetLife (MET).

OptionMonster's tracking programs on Friday detected the purchase of 20,000 January 45 calls for $1.15 and the sale of an equal number of January 50 calls for 40 cents. Volume was more than six times open interest at each strike, indicating that new positions were initiated.

With this trade, known as a vertical spread, the investor has a right to buy the life insurer's stock for $45 but must sell it for $50 if it goes to that level or higher. The trader paid 75 cents for that $5 spread, which would translate into a profit of 567% if MetLife shares go to the top of that range; that's massive leverage, given the price of the options compared with the stock.

MetLife rose 2.3% to $38.20 on Friday and is up 25% in the last six months. That's more than twice the performance of the S&P 500 in the same period.

Investors have been piling into financials recently, drawn by the sector's improving business profile and relatively cheap prices. MetLife, for instance, trades for barely half its book value.

Total option volume was eight times greater than average in the session, with calls outnumbering puts by a bullish 5-to-1 ratio. The company's next earnings report is scheduled for Feb. 14.

Russell has no positions in MET.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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