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About the only thing that seems clear in the options action in


(INTC) - Get Intel Corporation Report

Tuesday morning is that traders are anxious about tonight's earnings, as little clear consensus emerges on where the stock is headed.

After the bell, Intel is expected to release its second-quarter earnings results. The

First Call/Thomson Financial

21-analyst estimate is calling for the chip titan to post earnings of 98 cents a share.

A floor source on the

Chicago Board Options Exchange

said there was a hodge-podge of trading in Intel this morning ahead of its earnings report. The source said it looked like there was uncertainty as far as how Intel's earnings would look, noting some institutional put buying on Intel for options that expire in August and people frequently rolling July options into August positions.

While there may be some anxiety about the earnings announcement, Intel was getting hammered along with the rest of the tech sector as the

Nasdaq Composite Index

plummeted. Probably not helping Intel's stock performance Tuesday is the fact that the chip giant's shares have enjoyed a recent rally and were probably due for a pause, in the view of some.

After trading as low as 123 1/2 intraday on July 6, the stock soared as high as 147 1/2 intraday Monday, marking a 19% advance. Intel's stock was getting beaten up Tuesday morning, off 4 7/16 to 141 7/8.

Paul Foster of

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in Chicago said that the overall trading in Intel options Tuesday morning wasn't indicating where options players think the stock is going.

Implied volatility -- the market's measure of the potential movement of the stock -- on the July 140 calls was at 65, while for the puts it was 64, Foster said. On June 13, the implied volatility on Intel was 49, while during the market's selloff earlier this year, it stood at 56-57, he said. (Typically, implied volatility rises on an option ahead of a company's earnings.)

For the August 140 calls and puts, implied volatility stood at 47.

The word among the almost 60 traders in the Intel crowd at the

American Stock Exchange

was that volume and implied volatility on Intel options were historically lower for this earnings period than in the past.

One trader said that there's been less activity in Intel options than in previous earnings cycles, in part because Intel has been good about guiding analysts on what its earnings are going to look like, so there's less chance of a surprise coming out of the report.

With the relative drop in uncertainty surrounding earnings, there's less reason for investors to speculate, the trader said. He said there weren't a lot of bets being placed on Intel's earning prospects.

Implied volatility for front-month options was 58-59, while normally implied volatility has been as high as 100 the day before earnings, the trader pointed out.

However, as Wall Street's lunch break groaned into 1 p.m. EDT, trading and activity picked up a bit with brief flurries of shouting and screaming, punctuating the crowd.

Another trader in the Intel crowd, located in the "Red Room," at the

American Stock Exchange

, echoed the veteran trader's read on the options action in Intel, reiterating that implied volatility and activity were historically low, and he noted that there was less speculation than in the past.

The August 140 out-of-the-money puts were active on the AMEX, with more than 3,000 contracts trading. The puts were up 2 1/8 to 6 3/4. The August 140 puts were also active on the CBOE, with more than 1,000 contracts changing hands.

Joe Osha,

Merrill Lynch's

chip analyst, is projecting that Intel will post revenue of $8.06 billion, up 20% from the year-ago period. The analyst projects the company will earn 99 cents a share in the second quarter, a penny above estimates. Osha rates Intel intermediate-term accumulate.

The CBOE said it will list options on the following

Merrill Lynch

HOLDRs -- baskets of stocks in a sector that trade as a single security -- on Thursday:

B2B Internet






Internet Architecture



Internet Infrastructure




(PPH) - Get VanEck Pharmaceutical ETF Report



(SMH) - Get VanEck Semiconductor ETF Report





The underlying HOLDRs and options on the above HOLDRs already trade on the Amex.