Options investors returned to some
favorites that were headed back up Thursday.
In fact, it seemed as if investors were not only willing to play the volatile side of the market, but they were back to running yellow lights again as the put/call ratio dropped 15% today after climbing for much of the week. That means call-buyers -- who by nature are bullish -- once again ruled the day and kept tech stocks hopping.
"It's a split market, but investors are getting into selected biotech and tech stocks," said John Hayes, options strategist at
Among company options,
was running after a bullish analyst report from
Credit Suisse First Boston
. AOL got heavy put and call action today as the stock climbed 5 1/8 to 60 at midday after First Boston reiterated a strong buy rating.
AOL stock has fallen 40% since mid-December.
Option players dove into March and April calls, trading 8,650 contracts of the in-the-money March 55 calls and 3,100 contracts of the April 55 calls. It was possible part of that volume came from a rollover as the investor moved a bullish position out to April from March. The busiest AOL contract, however, was the near-the-money March 60 call, which still has a week to increase in value if the stock continues its run. About 16,000 contracts in the March 60 calls traded by midday, likely a combination of new bets and closeouts as the calls increase in price about 135% to 1 5/8 ($162.50), up 15/16 ($93.75).
Also active were the April 55 puts, which traded 10,000 contracts. This massive play was likely a combination of investors buying puts thinking AOL will retreat by next month, and those selling puts as a further bullish strategy.
The action surrounding the prospects of
U S West
were seeing some call action today after
reportedly made separate
offers to take over both companies.
Qwest saw some speculative action in March 60 calls, which traded 2,100 contracts at around 3 1/8 ($312.50). With the stock climbing 4 1/8 to 57 15/16 today, the trade counts on the stock rising another few points by St. Patrick's Day to be in the green.
In U S West, investors were willing to play a little further out. The company's in-the-money July 60 calls moved 1,200 contracts at 17 3/4 ($1,775). U S West stock was ramping up too, rising 3 1/2 to 73 1/8.
"There is a lot of activity in these two stocks, but I think it's mixed," said Tom Burnett of
. "There is call-buying, but I don't think people know where the valuations are going to fall."
Investors' favorite hedge play, the tracking stock on the
Nasdaq 100 unit trust
, continued to see heavy put play even as the index continues northward.
The Q saw the most action in its out-of-the-money April 206 puts, which traded 4,500 contracts at around 9 1/2, ($950). The Q itself was at 224 37/64, up 2 5/64.
Investors typically buy these kinds of index puts to protect their individual stock positions from overall market weakness. Because buying puts for each individual stock in a portfolio can generate big commissions, active investors have been using broader index puts as insurance.