On July 2, Investitute's market scanners identified the purchase of 1,500 July $70 calls for $2.39 and $2.40 as part of a bullish roll with shares at $69.88. This was clearly a new position, as volume was above the strike's open interest of 1,290 contracts.
Those July $70 calls would expire on July 20 and capture earnings, although airlines generally trade inversely to strong moves in the oil market, as operating margins are directly affected by fuel prices. These investors may have had a belief that not only would the shares of UAL trade higher on the back of an expected good report, but also that oil prices would consolidate from their most recent move higher.
Those very calls traded up to $9.23 on Wednesday, nearly 4 times their purchase prices. The stock rose 13.3% in the same time frame, showing how quickly options can far outperform their underlying shares.
United Continental jumped 8.79% to close at $79 even on July 18. The airline carrier topped quarterly estimates and raised its outlook after the market closed the day before.
Long calls lock in the price where investors can buy a stock, letting them position for a rally at limited cost with the potential for significant leverage. They carry less risk than owning shares because the most that can be lost is the price of the options no matter how far the stock might fall.
Contributed by Investitute. TheStreet has an affiliate partnership with Investitute.