OK, so after a perilous pre-market where the S&P futures were down more than 4% at one point over night, we have rallied all the way back and are in the green at the time of this posting. But some of the options activity from earlier today is still notable despite the rally. Let's have a look.
Shares of consulting firm
saw a big put spread hit the tape in the first 30 minutes of trading this morning. A customer bought 10,000 of the December 25 puts to sell 10,000 of the Dec. 22.50 puts. The put spread traded for 60 cents. After closing last night at $27.56, shares of ACN fell as low as $26.25 this morning, as the people who sold the put spread sold the stock to hedge themselves. The stock has now rallied back to $27.82.
So what can we say about this put spread? Let's remember that the most that this put spread can be worth is $2.50 (25 strike minus the 22.50 strike). Since the investor is paying 60 cents for the spread, the most he or she can make is $1.90. Therefore, that person will be paid roughly 3-to-1 odds if the stock finishes below $22.50 at expiration.
Secondly, remember that expiration is one week from today. So the buyer of this put spread has one week left for the bet to work out. However, note that there is a very important event on Thursday after the market close: earnings.
Finally, it is important to note that in short-dated option trades like these, it is less about implied volatility and more about someone buying a lottery ticket. What do I mean by this? Well, the implied volatility on this put spread is a 90. Compare that to a 21-day historical for ACN of 63 and that seems high. But because there are only five trading days left on this option, the potential for a large move due to earnings makes the implied vs. historical argument very week.
On the fundamental side, no tremendously bearish news about ACN has appeared in more than a week. But remember that consulting services are sometimes one of the first things that companies cut when times get tough, and we all know, that times now are now officially
. After hitting a 52-week low close of $26.71 on Nov. 20, ACN has not seen a significant price rebound, despite the 16% rally in the
This put-spread activity does not mean that investors should run right out and sell the underlying. But it does demonstrate that some investor is willing to bet money that ACN is going to have a violent move for earnings. Anyone considering trading in ACN prior to earnings should at least be aware of it.
Jud Pyle is the chief investment strategist for Options News Network and the portfolio manager of TheStreet.com Options Alerts. Click here for a free trial for Options Alerts. Mr. Pyle writes regularly about options investing for TheStreet.com.
Jud Pyle is the chief investment strategist for Options News Network. Pyle started his career in finance in 1994 as a derivative analyst with SBC Warburg. After four years with Warburg, Pyle joined PEAK6 Investments, L.P., in 1998 as an equity options trader and as chief risk officer. A native of Minneapolis, Pyle received his bachelor's degree in economics and history from Colgate University in 1994. As a trader, Pyle traded on average over 5,000 contracts per day, and over 1.2 million contracts per year. He also built the stock group for all PEAK6 Investments, L.P. hedging, which currently trades on average over 5 million shares per day, and over 1 billion shares per year. Further, from 2004-06, he managed the trading and risk management for PEAK6 Investments L.P.'s lead market-maker operation on the former PCX exchange, which traded more than 10,000 contracts per day. Pyle is the "Mad About Options" resident expert. He is also a regular contributor to "Options Physics."