Will J.C. Penney Pop on Earnings?

By David Russell, reporter at OptionMonster

NEW YORK -- J.C. Penney ( JCP) has seen some bullish activity recently, and one big investor is betting that a rally may come even sooner.

There was a surge of options volume in the department-store operator Tuesday, with the August and May months especially active. It appears that a trader was closing a complex three-way strategy involving the August 29 puts, the August 33 calls, and August 39 calls. The investor was probably net short calls at the higher strike, which could expose him or her to unlimited losses if the stock rallies too far too fast.

Less than two minutes after terminating that position, the trader bought more than 9,000 May 39 calls for 36.5 cents. That creates a much simpler long position without carrying risk if the shares rise too much. Taken together, the activity reflects a belief that the stock could make a dramatic move in the short term--possibly following the next earnings release on May 15.

J.C. Penney fell 1.08% to $35.67 Tuesday. The stock surged higher after the company's last quarterly report in January but then pulled back before bouncing at its 200-day moving average.

Overall option volume in the name was four times greater than average in the session.

Russell has no positions in JCP.
This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.