Strictly high-tech, strictly Internet.
As in the movie
, dancers don't waver outside the high-heeled tango and rhumba steps, and the music's beat is always the same.
Same thing for January expiration. "We're seeing nothing except buying of Internet and high-tech options," said a trader on the
Wall St. Access
options desk in New York. "We've got lots of customers just rolling out their positions from January
options into February," since many of the call options -- for instance, the
110 calls -- are going to expire worthless.
A call option gives the buyer the right to purchase the stock (usually 100 shares) for a certain price by its expiration date.
Microsoft stock was hovering around 105, and it's unlikely that it will run up past 110 by the end of the day Friday. But over the past few weeks, investors have been betting otherwise,
piling into the January calls on the expectation that earnings would blast the stock past that level. The so-called "open interest," or number of contracts opened in the January 110 strike price, totals a hefty 36,000.
Same thing with Microsoft January 115 calls, which were trading for as much as 3 3/8 ($337.50) right before earnings. By Friday, those same calls were trading at 1/16 ($6.25). As a result, investors are more than happy to sell those calls back for loose change and buy similarly struck options in the next expiration month.
Such Microsoft plays show how tricky the bets can be in buying options. For instance, is it worth buying February call options on
since the company reports next week? Once the boxmaker releases numbers, the value of those call options could collapse if the stock price sells off on the news, or it could pop if the numbers are stellar.
Traders expect more rolling into next month's call options for
, in particular the February 105 calls and January 112 1/2 calls, respectively. "There's just no buying of LEAPS (longer-dated options) like there was before," said another trader.
At this point in their spectacular run-ups, investors who don't want to lay out a big chunk of capital for the stock will instead buy call options as a proxy.
Among individual plays, here's something for the idea bin come February. Options can be a great arbitrage tool if you're careful how you make the move.
Paul Foster with
in Chicago, for example, was looking for options plays among utilities-turned-high-tech companies.
One name he's long is
, which has a one-third stake in a fuel-cell company called
. Plug Power's stock has moved from around 30 at the start of the year to 102 this Friday.
Foster argued it doesn't even matter if you don't want to understand the underlying technology. "DTE has a market capitalization of $5 billion, and Plug has a market cap of $5 billion," he said. "But if DTE owns a third of Plug Power, there's a whole billion dollars' worth of DTE market cap that hasn't been realized."
He's long the stock, but said call options are just as easy to do, and possibly less expensive. DTE stock is up 1 3/4 to 35 5/8; currently January 35 calls are up 11/16 ($68.75) to 13/16 ($81.25).
Foster's got some other ideas, too.
options. He argued that the contracts are too expensive if the Internet company is going to start trading like its less volatile, more old-media merger partner
He said he'd be a seller whenever the options start looking pricey.