Trading is relatively uneventful on options expiration Friday. The underlying tone is somewhat cautious after a four-day winning streak for the S&P 500 Monday through Thursday and after European finance ministers delayed a decision for Greece until October. The euro has given back .7 percent against the buck and market action was sluggish across Eurozone equity markets Friday. An 18.5 percent post-earnings loss in Research In Motion (RIMM) is getting noticed (see today’s Bearish Flow). Meanwhile, the economic calendar is light and included a better-than-expected reading from the U of M Consumer Sentiment Index; which was up to 57.8 in mid-September, from 55.7 and better than the 56.7 that economists were expecting. The data didn’t have much market impact and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is holding a 60-point gain. The tech-heavy Nasdaq added 7. With two hours left to trade, CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX) lost .54 to 31.43. Meanwhile, trading in the options market is active due to the expiration. Today is the last day to trade September options. 7.3 million calls and 7.7 million puts traded so far.
Ingersoll Rand (NYSE:IR) is up 56 cents to $35.45 and options volume is 4X the daily average, with 11,000 calls and 1,780 puts traded in the name so far. The focus is on Oct 36, 38 and 40 calls. The expiring Sep 37 calls are seeing interest as well. The heightened activity is being related to reports that United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) is raising cash to make a big acquisition, which is driving increased activity in Tyco (NYSE:TYC) today as well. The Reuters report also mentioned Rockwell Collins (NYSE:COL), Honeywell (NYSE:HON), and Textron (NYSE:TXT).
Tyson (NYSE:TSN) adds 4 cents to $17.52 and options volume is 3X the daily average amid increasing interest in Jan 20 calls. One player bought 3,000 at 60 cents per contract. A multi-exchange sweep of 1834 also traded at 60 cents per contract. The market was 55 to 60 cents. Looks like upside call buyers are dominating the early flow. It’s possibly closing activity. The contract is 14.2 percent OTM and has 8,035 in open interest, which is the largest position in Tyson today. The stock has performed well lately. After falling to multi-month lows of $15.6 on 8/8 after earnings were reported, shares are up 11.6 percent since that time.
The top equity options trades so far are in Research In Motion (RIMM). Shares are reeling today, down 19.4 percent to $23.83, on an earnings miss and multliple broker downgrades. Options volume in the BlackBerry-maker is 4X the daily average, with 364,000 puts and 189,000 calls traded in RIM so far. The top trades are a spread, in which the strategist bought 38,690 Jan 22.5 puts at $2.85 and sold 38,690 Jan 15 puts at 55 cents. A $2.30 net debit was paid to open the spread. The same strategist also sold 9,800 Oct 27 puts at $4 and 21,925 Jan 26 puts at $4.60, which are likely liquidating trades. In other words, in-the-money Oct and Jan puts were sold to buy the out-of-the-money Jan put spread. The position adjustment seems to be targeting another leg lower in RIM and comes as Barron's online writest today that "working capital needs" -- i.e. cash -- might now be a growing concern. RIM's cash on hand fell to $1.4 billion from $2.9 billion in the period and the company increased its credit facility to $500 million from $100 million, according to the report.
Implied Volatility Mover
CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX) is down .93 to 31.04 and off 27 percent since Monday morning, when the “fear gauge” opened the week at 42.56. Trading is active in VIX options, but not due to the expiration. This month, VIX options expire after the standard expiration and the last day to trade Sep options on the volatility index is next Tuesday. Instead, the options action is focused on October calls on VIX and includes substantial ratio spreads. The Oct 25 – 32.5 (1X2) was bought at 77.5 cents, 5000X and at 82.5 cents, 31000X. The spread appears to be targeting VIX at 32.5 through the October expiration, which is in 32 days. Or, it might be a position adjustment or closing activity, as substantial open interest exists in both contracts. Overall, trading is brisk in the VIX pit today, with 284K calls and 119K puts traded through mid-session.
Unusual Volume Movers
Bullish flow detected in Ralcorp (RAH), with 7074 calls trading, or 2x the recent average daily call volume in the name.
Bullish flow detected in RealD (NYSE:RLD), with 2567 calls trading, or 11x the recent average daily call volume in the name.
Bearish activity detected in United Technologies (UTX), with 7586 puts trading, or 2x the recent average daily put volume in the name.