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The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE:BX) has put in a strong technical performance over the long term -- the shares have nearly tripled from their May 2012 low of $11.13, thanks to a lift from their 10-month moving average. More recently, however, the equity has spent the majority of this year churning between $31.50 and $35. Amid this tepid price action, option players from both the call and the put side have been betting on the stock to either resume its longer-term uptrend, or at least hold its own at current levels.
On the call side, speculators at the International Securities Exchange (ISE) and Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) have bought to open 1.83 calls for every put over the past five sessions. Widening the time frame to 10 weeks, and including data from the NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), yields similar results. The stock's 50-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX call/put volume ratio of 5.72 ranks in the 77th annual percentile, meaning calls have been bought to open over puts at a faster-than-usual clip in recent months.
In particular, a number of these options bulls have targeted the June 35 strike, which is home to peak call open interest of 5,123 contracts in the back-month series. Since Jan. 22, more than 3,600 contracts have been bought to open here, and BX must rally nearly 11% from its current perch to topple the strike price. At last check, delta for this out-of-the-money call was docked at 0.20, suggesting a 20% chance of an in-the-money finish at the close on Friday, June 20, when the options expire.
Meanwhile, put players have also been active in BX's options pits, although they've been making their presence known on the short side. Specifically, the equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.16 ranks higher than 87% of similar readings taken in the past year, meaning short-term speculators are more put-heavy than usual toward BX. However, this metric measures both buy- and sell-to-open activity in the front three-months' series of options, and at the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX, traders have sold to open 2.26 puts for each one they've purchased over the past 50 sessions.
In the May-dated series, the round-number $30 mark has been a popular target among put writers, who have sold to open about 1,200 contracts since March 24. The expectation for initiating these short puts is for Blackstone to maintain its perch atop $30 through the close on Friday, May 16 -- when front-month options expire. In this best-case scenario, the puts will expire worthless, and the traders can retain the initial net credit as their full potential reward.
In today's session, The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE:BX) is extending Thursday's earnings-induced rise, up 0.7% at last check to trade at $31.54. While today's move higher has the stock flirting with positive year-to-date territory, it is still staring up at resistance from its descending 20-day moving average.