The unabashed optimism of the past two weeks is being repaid today as the investor run on speculative calls is looking less wise with just two days to go before Friday's expiration.
Yet, amidst the buying frenzy of 1999, some put plays that seemed headed for a worthless expiration added considerable value on a day when the
was down more than 230 points an hour into trading. Although many of the Internet and tech stocks that have been the darlings of the market are holding up, many banks and consumer-products companies that are at the core of institutional portfolios are under pressure.
One major institutional options trader in New York outlined some of the companies he was watching while the wheels come off on Brazil's economy and the damage spins toward several U.S. consumer-products companies and banks.
"Brazil was largely ignored by the market, but we were seeing a flight to safety before the open this morning as the T-bond rose," the trader said. "But yesterday the VIX spiked, and options volatility is not cheap anymore." The
Chicago Board Options Exchange Market Volatility Index
(VIX) is what traders are watching today. It jumped 13% on Tuesday; this morning, it quickly rose almost 9% to 32.28, and the put/call ratio ran to .59 on equity options. Typically, traders see .50 or above as a buying opportunity, but today they'll wait a little longer before jumping.
The consumer-products companies that have pushed aggressively into Latin America's largest market are seeing themselves in a tighter spot this morning.
fell a quick 3 1/16 to 38 7/16 today. Puts that expire Friday, destined for the scrap heap yesterday, rewarded those who were holding on until expiration.
The January 32 1/2 puts traded 100 contracts, but saw a price rise of 7/16 ($43.75) to 1/2 ($50) in less than an hour today. The January 37 1/2 puts jumped 9/16 ($56.25) to 15/16 ($93.75) on volume of just under 150 contracts. Avon had actually seen some puts trade Tuesday, but those were further out on the time horizon. More than 900 of the April 30 and April 40 puts changed hands, and those also saw their value increase today.
Brazil represents Avon's third-largest market, but when the region was also in the midst of economic woes in September, the company said it was fully hedged to any currency swings.
was another brand name in the crosshairs of put players this morning. With the underlying shares down 5 1/4 to 79 1/4, the January 75 and 80 puts were pumping. The 80s, now in the money, were trading for 1 3/4 ($175) today, representing a 1 5/16 ($131.25) increase.
The banking sector, primarily institutions such as
were under some pressure, but their options had yet to reflect any major concern over their exposure in Brazil and the rest of Latin America.
Chase was down 4 3/16 to 69 11/16 this morning, and its January 70 puts traded 243 contracts and rose 1 5/16 ($131.25) to 1 9/16 ($156.25). Its February options were similarly active, with the February 65 puts jumping 1 3/4 ($175) to 3 ($300) on volume of 414.