In addition to my own scans and watch lists, I use two main sources to follow options-related news: Daily Seeking Alpha columns by Frederic Ruffy and Andrew Wilkinson. 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. Often, by the time you receive an alert or summary, contracts have already had too much volatility and upside priced into the premium. Nevertheless, examples to capitalize on sometimes present themselves. 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.
Eastman Kodak (EK): Andrew Wilkinson reviewed speculative call buying in the options of Eastman Kodak in his Friday afternoon column. EK experienced an 8.6% upward spurt on Friday, closing at $3.40, thanks to optimistic comments from its CEO about the prospects for federal review of a previous negative decision in its patent suit against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Research in Motion (RIMM).
How to Play It: My guess is that the call buyers Wilkinson spoke of will flip out of their positions long before options expiration day (if they haven't already). Even with the U.S. International Trade Commission choosing to review the decision that went against Eastman Kodak, it won't present its final judgment until May. I like to stay away from these types of trades unless I am playing them on an intraday basis. They can go south fast. Any pop EK sees on Monday could easily reverse itself shortly thereafter. As of this writing, the stock has tacked on more than 20% in after-hours trading. As implied volatility will likely pop, this is the last time to get into EK call options. You'd likely be better as a seller of puts if you are a believer. AAPL and RIMM shares did not seem to react to the news in after-hours trading Friday.
As for AAPL and RIMM, I think you proceed without much attention to the Kodak news. AAPL powered to a close of $351.54 on Friday, setting the stage for a retest of its $364.90 52-week high. Barring major Apple news on the negative side or significant macro developments, I expect AAPL to flirt with $360 early next week, on anticipated strength in international iPad 2 sales amidst improving availability and decreasing supply fears. You can get aggressive by playing the AAPL $350 or $355 weekly calls that expire on April 1 or take a shot at anything ranging from ITM to $360 monthly calls that expire on April 25.
There's only one travesty bigger than the National Hockey League denying Jim Balsille's bid to move the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton, Ontario, and that's RIMM's tablet outlook. Did I hear Balsille correctly on Thursday's conference call? He has received calls from "many corporate clients" expressing "extremely high interest" in "wanting tens of thousands, several tens of thousands of PlayBooks." Sounds like a post-game interview with a hockey player: Incredibly vague and uninformative. By contrast, during the company's most recent earnings call, Apple's CFO Peter Oppenheimer reported that 83% of the Fortune 100 was already "deploying or piloting iPad." As for how to play RIMM - pick a put, any put. Actually, after a probable bounce off of its lows next week, I would look to get on RIMM's short side.
Sprint (NYSE:S): Wilkinson also mentions that bullish options activity in Sprint continues this week. As Wilkinson noted Sprint traded as high as $5.26 on March 18. On Friday, Sprint shares closed at $4.68, up 2.6%.
How to Play It: Over the last month or two, you could have made money playing M&A rumors on several names. Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) comes to mind. After AMD fired its CEO, its shares tanked. With the top post still absent and their business improving, shares have since rebounded. After trading as high as $9.25 on January 10th, AMD shares dropped to as low as $7.54 on the 26th of the same month. Had you purchased some March, April or May calls on AMD around its recent lows, you would be sitting pretty today. AMD has rebounded to as high as $9.58 on February 18th. AMD has retreated slightly, closing at $8.88 on Friday. I envision similar price action for Sprint.
Investors, as they often do, overreacted to the news that AT&T (NYSE:T) hopes to merge with Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile (OTCQX:DTEGY). Part of the trouble with the proposed deal is that it might not even go through. Either way, there's plenty of time between now and then. And in the interim, expect the Sprint takeover rumors to persist alongside with a realization that Sprint won't necessarily be crushed if the merger gets approved. Both factors spell upside for Sprint in the near- to mid-term. I would be comfortable buying May and August in- or at-the-money Sprint calls, particularly if the implied volatility settles down a bit.
Yahoo (YHOO): Ruffy pointed out interesting action in YHOO options on Friday. Action in the April-July $18 YHOO call spread indicates the possibility of a closing position given the low probability that YHOO shares will see $18 before the April options expiration date. YHOO closed at $16.96 on Friday.
How to Play It: Despite a recent run in the shares, I remain bearish on Yahoo. I am not a big fan of second fiddles, particularly when the company in question plays a weak second fiddle to Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). The way Yahoo chases Google is almost as comical as watching tech companies come up with imitation iPods, iPhones and iPads. One saving grace for Yahoo has been the possibility that it might shed its Japanese interest to focus on China, but not much has transpired on that front. And to top it off, Yahoo's ad revenue continues to decline. There could be one of several bearish plays on YHOO, including buying straight puts or initiating a bear call or bear put spead to limit your risk relative to simply buying puts in case shares jump on positive news.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.