climb to 10,000 sparked some call buying in options across the board, a bullish push that worried some options specialists on this historic day.
The Dow breached the magic mark about 20 minutes into trading this morning and fell back shortly thereafter. The move sent some retail players into call options, as a wave of buying lifted the put/call ratio today to 0.35, meaning calls were outpacing puts by about 3 to 1.
"If we see a few days of this call buying, it could get to be a problem," says Jay Shartsis, options strategist for
, adding that if the Dow closes above 10,000 today, there could be some pullback reflected in the options tomorrow. Option pros don't like to see overexuberant call activity since the imbalance is often followed by a reversal.
Call action was heavy in options favorites like
AOL, for example, saw heavy play in its March calls, with its in-the-money 95s and 100s the most active, with 5,845 and 5,480 contracts moving, respectively. The April 100 and 105 calls also were jumping, indicating some possible rollover plays. AOL's stock was up 2 3/4 to 104 3/4 this afternoon.
"AOL is just amazing -- it splits, and then it's right back up," says one options pro. AOL split last in February. The company also is being lifted by recent news that the
U.S. Justice Department
has cleared its acquisition of
This week's expiration, the first triple-witch of the year, also brought some big plays.
saw massive action in what looked to be a call option rollover, as about 15,000 contracts traded in its in-the-money April and May strikes. The investor appeared to be closing out the April 17 1/2 calls and rolling into the May 20s, taking a strike that's closer to the money. Novell's stock was at 23 15/16, down 3/8, this afternoon.
"I think the psychology of expiration helped the Dow hit the 10,000 mark earlier than it perhaps would have," says Michael Schwartz, chief options strategist for
The Dow event unfolded exactly like everyone had predicted -- a spurt above 10,000 and then a pullback -- and then it was back to work for options traders, says Bob Fogliano, first vice president in the options department of
. "Now we're advising clients to look at stocks with volatility levels between 35 and 45 and to stay away from the high-volatility stocks," says Fogliano.
Lower-volatility stocks like
Johnson & Johnson
have performed well -- albeit not spectacularly recently -- says Fogliano. "Slow and boring, isn't that wonderful?"
saw some action in its Oct. 30 calls, which moved 1,040 contracts against only 276 contracts of open interest. Some of that volume was likely call buyers opening new positions and speculating on a long-term positive opinion of the stock. The Oct. 30s moved at 2 15/16, or $293.75, per contract.
The strategy is pinned on the hopes that Rite Aid will continue to bounce after falling almost 40% on Friday, when the company announced worse-than-expected earnings estimates. The stock has recovered slightly since and was up 3/4 to 25 3/8 this afternoon.