Call it a day for the dogs. Options investors
continued to get back into call options in some of the more recently beaten down stocks today even as other options players were keeping an eye on this month's expiration.
"I think this is still a lot of call-buying today," says Stewart Winner, director of retail options at
. Investors were moving back into the call side of such companies as
, which have been pummeled in the recent tech slide.
Still, the return to some optimism could hardly be called euphoric. "The volatility is still pretty low -- you're not seeing a lot of erratic behavior," says Winner.
In addition to the call action on the usual favorites, some investors were already starting to deal with this month's expiration, which is March 19. A huge rollover play unfolded in
, as an investor moved 12,940 contracts out of the April 40 calls and into the 2000 January 40 calls. The price difference forced the investor to cough up another 1 1/4, or $125 per contract -- about $1.6 million -- for the transaction.
The move kept the investor in the money and was probably done against a large holding in the stock, surmises Michael Schwartz, chief options strategist for
. "This was definitely expiration-related," Schwartz says. Bell Atlantic's stock was up 3/16 to 54 11/16 this afternoon.
The oil sector was also on options investors' minds. Buoyed by some positive data on inventory, oil prices were up this morning, resulting in some options plays.
saw its front-month options, the March 50 calls, move 1,735 contracts. The price of the options was climbing quickly, increasing in value by 75% to 2 5/8, or $262.50 per contract, from yesterday's close of 1 1/2, or $150 per contract. The call options were moving in tandem with the stock, which was also up 1 3/4 to 51 1/4 this afternoon.
oil sector index, or OSX, was jumping, with 6,735 contracts in its at-the-money April 50 calls. The strikes went out against only 351 open-interest contracts, indicating new money at work. The OSX was up 2.94 to 50.65 this afternoon.
Waste management company
also was active on little news. Browning-Ferris saw near-the-money action in its lightly-played March and April calls. The March 35s moved 3,870 contracts against only 504 open-interest contracts, indicating new money was flooding into the strike price. The April 35s moved 1,335 contracts against just 15 open-interest contracts.
The prices of the options also were climbing as Browning-Ferris' stock moved up 7/8 to 32 1/8 this afternoon. The March 35s went out at 3/4, or $75 per contract, compared to A close of 3/16, or $18.75 per contract, yesterday. The April 35s moved to 1, or $100 per contract, from 3/16, or $18.75 per contract yesterday.
With no news, Oppenheimer's Schwartz says he doesn't know what to make of the activity. "It's definitely strange when Browning-Ferris is on your heavy-volume list," he says.