By Jud Pyle, CFA, chief investment strategist for the Options News Network

The number of Halliburton ( HAL) options traded has more than doubled today, thanks to one bullish investor whose put sale trumped normal daily options volume by approximately 12,000 contracts.

More than 50,000 HAL options have changed hands today, compared to normal daily options volume of 23,000 contracts. The bulk of the volume traded in the January 2010 expiration month after an investor sold 35,000 in-the-money Jan. 22 puts for $4.45 per contract with the stock trading around $19 a share. The Jan. 22 puts, which are currently trading down 20 cents on the day, are home to current open interest of 1,719 contracts. More than 36,400 of the Jan. 22 puts have changed hands already today, with more than two hours left to go in the trading day.

HAL did not announce any significant news today that could have instigated heavy put selling activity. HAL shares could be rallying despite a drop in crude oil prices today because of expectations for a better-than-expected earnings season, especially for stocks with above-average exposure to outperforming international markets. The company is scheduled to announce earnings figures on July 20, the trading day after July expiration.

HAL shares are currently trading up 30 cents to $19.23 -- that's 43% higher since reaching a 52-week low of $13.46 on Nov. 20, but 63% from the 52-week high of $53.07 it saw on June 30 last year.

The investor needs HAL shares to expire higher than $17.55 in order to make money on this trade ($17.55 is the breakeven point). Bullish investors do not necessarily want a big rally - they just need the stock to at least hold its current level. Given that this put sell was relatively long term and using in-the-money options, it is a little unusual but still points to moderate bullish sentiment from the investor.

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