Friday Options Briefs: UUP, FTI, ZRAN, NDAQ

Includes: FTI, NDAQ, UUP, ZRAN
by: Interactive Brokers

PowerShares DB US Dollar Bullish Fund (NYSEARCA:UUP) – A sea change in attitude toward the dollar following today’s weaker-than-expected employment report inspired one options player to cut and run from a large bullish position in the US Dollar Bullish Fund this morning. Shares of the UUP, an exchange-traded fund that tracks the performance of the dollar index, are down 1.00% to arrive at 22.93 just before 11:30 am. It looks like the trader originally purchased a massive position in March 2011 24 strike calls to gain exposure to a rising dollar, or alternatively to defend against dollar appreciation, ahead of the Fed’s decision to roll out a second round of quantitative easing. The investor appears to have purchased 105,500 calls at the March 2011 24 strike back on October 27, 2010, at a premium of $0.34 apiece. Since the calls were purchased, the fund rose approximately 3.8% from 22.65 up to this week’s high of 23.52. In hindsight, the trader would have been better advised to act ahead of Friday’s employment data release as he did when he initially purchased the calls ahead of the Fed announcement. Premium on the March 2011 24 strike calls stood at an average of $0.48 each on Tuesday when the UUP touched its intraweek high of 23.52. The plunge in the value of the dollar today combined with the adverse effects of eroding time value on the contracts pushed premium on the calls down significantly. The investor received just $0.24 per call option on the sale of all 105,500 contracts today. Net losses on the closing sale amount to $0.10 each. We do not know whether the options were tied to an underlying position or if the initial long call position was intended as a hedge against a strengthening dollar. These are important factors that would likely change the interpretation of the activity observed on the UUP this morning.

FMC Technologies, Inc.(NYSE:FTI) – Shares of the provider of technology solutions for the energy industry slipped 0.70% to $88.12 today, spurring one wary options market participant to construct a put spread in the December contract. The put player may be initiating an outright bearish bet that FTI’s shares are headed lower by expiration day, or may be utilizing the spread to protect the value of a long position in the underlying shares. FMC Technologies was cut to ‘hold’ from ‘buy’ at Dahlman Rose today, but analysts at Stifel upped their target share price on the stock to $97 from $75. FTI popped up on our ‘hot by options volume’ market scanner after the investor picked up 1,500 puts at the December $85 strike for a premium of $1.35 each, and sold the same number of puts at the December $80 strike at a premium of $0.40 apiece. Net premium paid to establish the spread amounts to $0.95 per contract. Thus, the trader responsible for the transaction makes money, or realizes downside protection, if FTI’s shares decline 4.6% to breach the effective breakeven price of $84.05 by expiration day in a few weeks. Maximum potential profits of $4.05 per contract are available to the put spreader should shares in FMC Technologies plummet 9.2% from the current price of $88.12 to trade below $80.00 by December expiration. Shares in FTI hit a new 52-week high of $89.00 on Thursday.

Zoran Corp.(NASDAQ:ZRAN) – Bullish players are once again purchasing long-dated call options on the Sunnyvale, CA-based company to position for shares of the provider of digital signal processing technologies to rise ahead of June 2011 expiration. Earlier this week, Zoran announced the completion of its $166 million all cash acquisition of Microtune, Inc., a firm based in Plano, TX. Shares in Zoran are currently up 5.3% to stand at $7.56 as of 11:05 am in New York trading. Investors expecting ZRAN to extend gains scooped up more than 1,630 now in-the-money calls at the June 2011 $7.5 strike for an average premium of $0.93 apiece. Call buyers are prepared to profit should shares in Zoran surge 11.5% over the current price of $7.56 to surpass the average breakeven point to the upside at $8.43 ahead of June expiration. Bulls that picked up June 2011 $7.5 strike calls yesterday, ahead of today’s sharp rise in shares, were able to purchase at least 1,830 contracts for an average premium of $0.75 each. The calls currently tout an asking price of $1.15 apiece for late-comers. ZRAN’s overall reading of options implied volatility is lower by 9% as of 11:15 am to stand at 37.34%.

NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.(NASDAQ:NDAQ) – Put options are in demand on the global exchange ground today with shares of the underlying stock falling as much as 3.9% to an intraday low of $22.34. NDAQ was reportedly downgraded to ‘hold’ from ‘buy’ at Stifel Nicolaus today. Long-term bearish players expecting the price of NDAQ shares to continue to decline purchased approximately 2,000 puts at the June 2011 $22 strike at a premium of $1.75 a-pop. Put buyers make money if the exchange operator’s shares plunge 9.35% off today’s low of $22.34 to breach the effective breakeven price of $20.25 ahead of June expiration day. More than 2,120 puts changed hands at the June $22 strike thus far today, versus paltry previously existing open interest of just 88 contracts at that strike. Shares in NDAQ have exceeded $20.25 since October 21, 2010.