OptionMonster's tracking systems detected a flurry of short-term call buying in the hamburger giant focused on the contracts expiring in the next two weeks. Traders first snapped up Weekly 95 calls coming due this Friday, Oct. 3, for 31 cents to 70 cents. They followed with the standard monthly October 96 calls for 49 cents to 78 cents. Volume was well above the previous open interest in each strike, which indicates that new money was put to work.
Long calls lock in the price where investors can purchase a stock, allowing cheap upside exposure while limiting risk. These contracts can also provide significant leverage if the shares rally, and that's exactly what happened Monday after the options hit.
McDonald's shares gained as much as 2.7% at one point and ended the session up 1.16% to $96.22. But that was nothing compared with the options, as OptionMonster co-founder Pete Najarian said on CNBC's "Fast Money" last night. The shorter-term 95 calls shot up to $2.35, while the regular October 96s peaked above $2, more than doubling the premiums in both.
The move followed rumors that activist billionaire investor Carl Icahn had taken a stake in the company, which earlier this month hit its lowest price since January 2013.
Overall option volume in McDonald's was quadruple the daily average, with calls accounting for a bullish 81% of the total.