A few relatively flat days for the market, combined with a slew of earnings releases, has resulted in very light index and ETF volume this week, while single stock option volume is holding strong, trading slightly above normal. I believe this is a healthy sign for the industry, as it suggests less macro concern and more 'old fashioned' research into the fundamentals that contribute to share value.
A number of stocks saw bullish flow as the broad market stalled, including crazy late action in Ezchip (EZCH) that woke up a few traders I know who piggybacked their way to significant gains. Call volume exploded with stock price late Wednesday. Nearly 10,000 calls have traded, 11x normal, with a call:put near 200 heading into the close. Shares popped more than $1 from $26 just after 3:43PM and one trader was quick on the trigger, paying $0.20 for 502 March 28 calls on NOM when shares were at $26 (now $0.70 bid). Very interesting that no news = bad news and shares are off 6% this morning, back to $27 level.
Sotheby's (BID) premiums bid and call volume heavy into earnings. Company will report after the close today and 3,200 calls traded, vs 600 puts, including an opening customer buyer paying $1.90 for March 50s nearly 1,500x. Premiums suggest an earnings reaction well above the recent moves, with March implied vols near 37% working out to a $3 reaction to the news. Median move over the past two years is only 2.2%.
Bullish flow detected in Chemical and Mining Co of Chile (SQM) with nearly 6,000 calls trading, or 62x the recent average daily call volume in the name. Shares closed up more than $2 at $28.74 and ATMIV lifting by 15 points.
American Capital (ACAS) saw opening call buyers Wednesday. With shares up $0.15 at $15.40 a trader bought 9,000 May 16s for $0.55 per contract. It's opening and tied to 140K shares at $15.27. Volume at that strike was well above the 8,134 contracts of incoming open interest. The stock has been chopping higher over the past two weeks after dropping 6.4% on February 11 after earnings were reported. Interest in the May 16 calls seems to be expressing a bullish view on venture capital and private equity firm for the months ahead.
American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings (AXL) call volume exploded early Thursday, with total volume 17x normal just 20 minutes into the trading day. April 20s are the focus, 12,000 now traded in the $0.78 price level. Total option volume well into record territory for the auto part maker -- no headlines...yet.