It's one of those Fridays when the market is rallying, and traders are seeing opportunity where they have previously seen little. One of the prime areas for that is in takeover talk and there is enough chatter to juice the prices of some of the favorite names.
In a market that has been frozen by fear and high prices, it appears that some good old fashioned speculation could be rearing its head. Even the
Chicago Board Options Exchange
volatility index and put/call ratio were coming in some, showing a little bit of confidence in a market tattered by the past six weeks of volatility.
"It's just not the same market that it once was," said Michelle Skupp, half of the Seidman-Skupp options team at
, warning that little of the recent merger and acquisition talk cropping up in the market has come to fruition or resulted in big premiums for investors.
Skupp monitors the implied volatility and call volume of options, watching for abnormal increases that could signal smart money encroaching. Some of the names that have turned up in the past few days include
While none of those stocks are showing runaway options traffic, that low volume belies some serious price appreciation in their call options, typically the tool of takeover speculators.
Allstate, which was up 1 11/16 to 24 7/8 at midday, saw just 160 of its out-of-the-money June 25 calls trade but the price of the contract rose 9/16 ($56.25) to 1 3/4 ($175). Whether Allstate is in play is an open question, but the financial services arena is in the midst of a consolidation phase and traders gravitate towards companies they think have a good chance of getting taken over.
Volume on Allstate's May 25 and June 25 calls spiraled into four-digit territory Thursday, as the options traded 3,500 and 2,100 contracts, respectively.
US Bancorp is another possibility. With its shares climbing 1 7/16 to 24 3/16 by midday, its May 25 calls doubled in price from 1/4 ($25) to 1/2 ($50) this morning on volume of just 62 contracts.
Interstate Bakery shares were down 1/8 to 14 3/8, but that didn't stop call buyers from running volume in the May 15 calls to 200 contracts. That action, which almost equaled the current open interest on the May 15, sent the price of the contract up 1/8 ($12.50) to 5/8 ($62.50).