Rollovers were the theme of the day in the options market as investors used the early quiet period of trading to take care of end-of-the-money options business. However, investors also staked out some puts as the market dipped.
Not surprisingly, the call end of the playing field was the busiest on Tuesday as investors had to close out the raw tonnage of March calls they had opened and lay out their plans for April and beyond.
But as the market started downward in the afternoon, put-buyers who had crept around earlier in the day saw their speculation pay off. Often in expiration week, speculators will look for out-of-the-money plays that could turn profitable during the frenzy of a triple-expiration, when index options, equity options and index futures expire together.
They went today for the
Nasdaq 100 unit trust
, which fell 4 to around 218 by midday.
The busiest hit-put contracts were nearest the money with the April 214 and 224 puts. The April 214 puts jumped 2 1/8 ($212.50) to 13 ($1,300) on volume of more than 5,000 contracts.
The call players were going with those old school tech favorites such as
It wasn't just a tech stock free-for-all, however; companies as diverse as
were seeing massive roll plays. Expiration for the March options happens Friday.
"It's typical action for an expiration week, but there is a lot of activity because there was so much call buying in March," said Gary Semeraro, options strategist at
. Given the market's volatility since the beginning of the year, however, option players are not showing very much willingness to bet all their chips on one turn of the wheel.
"There's not much conviction here," Semeraro added. "Investors aren't showing whether they are willing to go long or not. They're playing wait-and-see."
Semeraro said he thinks investors may not want to get overexposed to stocks that have continued to soar and are overdue for a pullback. At the same time, though, there's a tug to stay long so they don't miss out on some of the moves that stocks such as
have made recently, he said. Dell climbed 10 points since closing at 47 on March 8, hitting a new high of 57 7/8 today.
Among all the rollover plays, there was a little speculation going on.
saw more than 4,500 contracts in its out-of-the-money May 15 calls trade against just 3,138 contracts of open interest, indicating new money at play.
The May 15s moved at 1 1/2 ($150) and seemed to be going out under buying pressure. With Silicon Graphic's stock climbing 8% today to 13 1/4, the call-buyers were feeling no pain.
On the put side, some options players may be worried that a lawsuit filed against
on Monday may have some teeth. The suit, brought by a unit of
, alleges Monsanto has used its patents to stifle competition in the cotton industry.
Today, investors moved into Monsanto's April 35 puts, trading 2,100 contracts at around 5/8 ($62.50). Monsanto's stock shook off the news, edging higher to 41 3/8, up 3/8.