As stocks got hammered for a variety of reasons this morning, options market pros said they're didn't think today's options expiration was having a significant impact on the
were getting hammered, down 9 to 121, and options activity dutifully followed in puts, options that are typically used to express bearish sentiment.
Traffic was notable in the August 120 puts at the
Chicago Board Options Exchange
with 1,222 contracts trading, compared to open interest Thursday of 535. The August 120 puts -- which give the holder the right to sell H-P shares at 120 by the third Friday of August -- were up 3 1/2 ($350) to 6 7/8 ($687.50).
, which was spun off from H-P last year, also was getting hammered after issuing an earnings
warning Thursday after the close. Agilent's August 50 puts were active, with 537 contracts trading compared with open interest of nearly 400 contracts as of Thursday's close. Agilent was off 5 1/8 to 48 7/8.
Money manager Dave Schultz of
Summit Capital Holdings
noted in an interview Thursday that some people were taking a gamble on the
July 100 calls (then a little bit out of the money).
At the time he spoke with
around midafternoon Thursday, about 10,000 of the contracts had traded. Schultz said it looked like people were playing that for a day just for Friday's open, a "straight gamble."
Heading into the final hour of trading Thursday, the calls were trading at 1 3/4 ($175), up 1 5/16 ($131.25), as the stock soared at that time, up 5 7/16 to 99 3/8. Schultz is long shares of Sun Microsystems.
After the bell, Sun posted
earnings that blew away Street expectations. In response Friday, several brokerage houses raised their price targets on the tech giant.
So how did the gamble pay off for those who played the July 100 calls? Well, shares of Sun were flying Friday, up 5 13/16, or 5.9%, to 103 7/8, and the July 100 calls were trading at 4 1/2 ($450) on the
Traders who bought those call options yesterday for 1 3/4 ($175) could now sell them and close out their positions for $450, pocketing a $275 profit for each contract bought Thursday for a 157% gain. Nice work if you can get it.
Some options market participants said they expect the effect of today's expiration on the overall market to be minimal. Options contracts expire on the third Friday of every month.
Lawrence McMillan of
said his opinion of a quiet expiration is based on the fact that "open interest is too small to justify anything" for options on the
Because the number of outstanding S&P 100 index option contracts expiring Friday is relatively low, market makers don't have to trade as much stock to maintain positions they keep in the underlying stock to hedge their options. It is typically that balancing of positions that creates expiration day volatility, so the less open interest -- the number of contracts still outstanding -- the less tumult the market can expect.
Typically, options expiration produces unusual volatility as traders adjust positions into future months and are forced to buy and sell stock to fulfill the terms of outstanding options contracts.