In addition to my own scans and watch lists, I use three main sources to follow options-related news: Daily Seeking Alpha columns by Frederic Ruffy, Andrew Wilkinson and optionMONSTER.
While I get great use out of these sources and have even made money thanks to them, you have to be careful not to chase the stocks or options they mention. Occasionally, you can find examples to capitalize on. Below I detail options brought to my attention by these sources and how investors might consider playing them - or the underlying security - if at all, during the trading week.
My attention spans most of Friday's trading day, including early in the session, so some information may change. Lately I have found it useful to go back and review past selections. I do this not to tout my record but to - hopefully - create learning experiences for myself and Seeking Alpha's audience. As with all of my articles, use my suggestions and analysis as the impetus for future research.
News Corp (NWS) (NWSA): In his Friday column, Wilkinson highlighted bullish options activity in NWS. The trader Wilkinson featured expects NWS to rise to new heights by January 2013; in fact, the spread executed generates optimal returns if the stock climbs 56.4% between now and then.
I'm generally bullish on the programmers. I've made my case for CBS (CBS) elsewhere. I would put a bruised and battered News Corp in the same class. Exposure to 2012 campaign ad spending should benefit stocks like NWS and CBS as well as shares of terrestrial radio companies with large numbers of stations that carry talk programming and cater to 35-plus audiences.
I would be willing to go long NWSA and CBS Jan 2013 call options (with or without the hedge of a spread) right now. As far as terrestrial radio goes, it's not my favorite space to invest in right now. However, I would consider a trade around key earnings reports in mid- to late-2012.
Oil Services HOLDRs (OIH): Wilkinson also spotlighted a winning bearish trade in OIH contracts:
Big profits were swept off the table today by one options strategist who initiated a bearish stance on the oil service industry just two days prior. Shares in the OIH are down 1.2% this afternoon at $123.47 on the heels of a 10.0% decline since Wednesday, and a more than 24.5% drop since the end of July. It looks like the trader purchased a 2,500-lot September $122/$130 put spread at a net premium of $2.15 per contract on Wednesday, which he today sold at a net premium of $3.70 per contract this morning to pocket net profits of $1.55 per contract in just 48 hours. The allure of additional profits, as well as the view that the sector may continue to struggle in the next few weeks, may have spurred the same trader to put on another bear put spread today. Roughly seven minutes after the spread was sold, it looks like a September $112/$120 put spread was purchased for a net premium of $2.31 per contract around 3,000 times. The options player profits at expiration next month if shares in the OIH decline another 4.7% to breach the effective breakeven point on the spread at $117.69.
While such bearish plays on oil might work for short-term traders, it's wise to go long oil, assuming you have a time horizon of roughly one year or more.
When oil was ticking up, I had success writing covered calls against a position in the ProShares Ultra DJ-AIG Crude Oil ETF (UCO). I managed to book profits on the stock position, collect income from the calls and not get any shares called away. Given that oil will not stay down for long, assuming you take a longish-term view, building a buy-write position in UCO at these lows (it's down about 15% YTD) seems to make sense.
Best Buy (BBY): While the $10,000 portfolio I am looking to double flirts with big losses on Apple's (AAPL) decline, it's doing relatively well with a position in BBY March 2012 $22 calls. Given the lofty goal of a double in such a short period of time, there's no way to go other than super-risky and ultra-aggressive (I guess I could have just shorted the market, as one commenter suggested). BBY at its perceived bottom fits that risky-aggressive mold for me.
As optionMONSTER pointed out at its website, put selling in the name indicates that at least one big trader agrees with me:
This morning's option volume in the name is dominated by the September 20 puts. A trader apparently sold 16,000 of those puts for $0.35 against previous open interest of 1,737 at that strike, so this is a new opening position.
This put selling is a bet that BBY will be above $20 when the September expiration rolls around. The trader keeps the credit as profit if the stock is above that strike price. If shares are below $20, they face possible assignment and will be obligated to buy them at that price.
Like CBS, BBY desperately wants to test recent highs and head back into the $30s. While I think this could happen between now and the end of the year, I would choose to play in relative conservative fashion with in-the-money calls.
Sirius XM (SIRI): I subscribe to Briefing.com's InPlay Plus service, largely for its excellent intraday options updates. Midday Friday, Briefing noted "unusual" bearish activity in SIRI Dec $1.50 puts. Indeed volume was unusually high in those contracts today, with 10,505 trading.
A customer-to-customer transaction accounted for much of that volume. This means that the exchange matched two customers together, one buying SIRI Dec $1.50 puts and the other selling them. It looks like the trade went off at $0.185. As such, the "bearish" reference is only half-right. It always pays to dig deeper.
There's no better way to illustrate the zero sum game that is the stock market than with this type of activity. A bull sold the puts to a bear who believes he can profit from further depreciation in SIRI between now and December options expiration day.
As I noted earlier this week in a Seeking Alpha article, unless you have the means to trade considerable size, it could be tough to squeeze meaningful profits out of an options trade on a sub-$2.00 stock that will likely not rise or fall by more than a couple of dimes in the near-term. For longer-term options trades on a stock like this, you need to consider the probability of a major move in the stock against the carry cost of the trade (i.e., the cost of margin, if applicable, and the cost of not putting your money to work elsewhere).
Additional disclosure: I own open AAPL bull put spreads.