CHICAGO -- By Jud Pyle, CFA, chief investment strategist for the Options News NetworkShares of ConocoPhillips ( COP) have rallied 28% since reaching a 52-week low of $35.13 at the beginning of March, and the stock has seen a bullish tail wind throughout the last few weeks. We saw large call volume in COP August options the day before the company announces second-quarter earnings, but don't be fooled; this is just an option strategy related to the fact that the stock trades ex-dividend today. The COP Aug. 38 calls traded more than 117,500 times, and the Aug. 37 calls changed hands nearly 74,000 times yesterday. The Aug. 38 calls dropped 33 cents on the day and were home to open interest of 4,000 contracts. The Aug. 37 calls dropped 35 cents and were home to open interest of 2,600 contracts yesterday. COP shares closed down 35 cents to $44.90, and the company announced its second-quarter earnings figures at 8:30 a.m. EDT today. You might be asking: Was this a bullish investor buying calls that are way in-the-money instead of buying stock, or was it a bearish investor selling calls rather than shares? Answer: Neither. This trade is designed to take advantage of the fact that shares of COP will trade ex-dividend today. As a result, the Aug. 37 and Aug. 38 calls are technically an exercise because holders of call options do not participate in the dividend. Instead of holding the calls, the owner of the options should exercise them and get the shares, thus getting the dividend.