By David Russell, reporter at OptionMonsterOption traders are divided over the direction of Apple ( AAPL), which has stalled around an all-time high since its last blowout earnings report. Both calls and puts were traded heavily in the name yesterday as investors positioned for its next earnings release after the bell today. Almost 366,000 contracts changed hands, more than quadruple the average for Apple, making it the fourth most-active name in the options market. Over the previous month, it had ranked No. 10 on OptionMonster's tracking programs. Despite an amazing run -- its stock more than doubled since early 2009 -- Apple now stands at a major juncture.
While the pop in the shares looked bullish, our tracking systems detected heavy put buying in the name yesterday as investors looked for a move down later in the year. There was also heavy call selling during the last push higher, suggesting that investors doubted the sustainability of the move. A similar pattern has emerged in other stocks competing in the wireless and smartphone sectors. Motorola, considered a major challenger to Apple because its handsets running on Google's Android operating system, also saw heavy selling of its Aug. 7 and Aug. 8 calls yesterday. The activity occurred after Motorola rallied 22% so far this month to its highest level since early January. Nokia ( NOK) and Research In Motion ( RIMM), which have both lost customers to the iPhone, have also been subjected to heavy call selling. Research In Motion, a former darling of tech investors thanks to the success of its iconic BlackBerry device, is down 20% this year and recently touched its lowest price since April 2009. Nokia, a producer of ordinary handsets and lower-end smartphones, is now trading near levels last seen in 1998.