Evidently concluding all the bad news for
in the government's antitrust case is out and priced into the stock, investors pushed the software giant's options onto most active lists Monday.
The government on Friday
asked a federal judge to break Microsoft into two separate companies to curb its monopoly power in the personal computer software arena. Traders and investors -- who loathe uncertainty and who have punished shares of Microsoft during the antitrust case -- were jumping back into the stock Monday, figuring that the stock had been so beaten up, downside risk was minimal and that all the bad news had been priced into the stock. At midday, shares of Microsoft were up 2 1/2, or 4%, to 72 1/4 -- positive action that carried over into the firm's call options traffic.
Microsoft's May 75 calls were seeing a good amount of action. On the
, nearly 4,300 of the May 75 call options have traded and the premium on those calls has climbed 1 1/16 ($106.25) to 2 3/8 ($237.50).
Most of the action in Microsoft options was in the May and June contracts, with few large bets being placed further out on the calendar.
Helping bolster Microsoft's shares was a
report which said shares of the tech behemoth, based on the sum of all its parts, are worth between 125 to 135 each.
The soothing feeling -- that the market knows the worst case scenario for Microsoft -- appeared to entice options players back into the market for a wide swath of tech names.
One market maker at the Pacific Exchange said that volatility levels were coming down a lot and that the market maker was lowering the volatilities in the names he handles.
News that the Netherlands'
for $5.1 billion in cash, or $54 a share -- a nice premium to ReliaStar's closing price of 44 Friday -- hasn't juiced up a great deal of interest in ReliaStar's options Monday.
Those options, however, were active Friday. Shares of ReliaStar were up 6 15/16, or 15.8%, to 50 15/16 in midday trading Monday.
ReliaStar, a financial services concern, which includes a large life-insurance operation, is based in Minneapolis. ReliaStar is the eighth-largest publicly-held life insurance company in the country. The heaviest volume in ReliaStar options Monday was in the October 45 call options -- with 510 contracts trading. Last trade on the calls was at 7 7/8 ($787.50).
Elswehere in the insurance world, the May 22 1/2 and May 25 call options on
Allstate, based in Northbrook, Ill., is a property-and-casualty and life insurance company, which also offers annuities. Shares of Allstate were up 1/2 to 24 1/4 in midday trading.
American Stock Exchange
, more than 3,200 of the May 22 1/2 calls have traded with prices jumping 1/2 ($50) to 2 3/8 ($237.50 ). The May 25 calls on the Amex have traded nearly 4,300 contracts for around 13/16 ($81.25), down 1/16 ($6.25).