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Option Activity Alert: American International Group, Inc. (AIG) Puts Popular Ahead of Hearing

Back-month bears bet on an extended slide for the insurance issue

by 1/26/2010 1:50:23 PM
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American International Group (AIG: View sentiment for AIGsentiment, chart, options) better known as just "AIG" has been the focus of some fervent put trading today, as investors prepare for a congressional hearing on the insurer's payments of taxpayer funds to large banks. Among those on the roster to testify tomorrow are former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and former chairman of the New York Fed Stephen Friedman.

So far today, the bailed-out behemoth has seen almost 18,000 puts cross the tape nearly doubling its average single-session volume of fewer than 9,300 puts. Most popular has been the in-the-money February 28 put, which has seen about 3,350 contracts exchanged. However, most of the puts have traded closer to the bid price, indicating they were likely sold, and implied volatility has ebbed 1.9%. In other words, it seems some February 28 put traders may be cashing in on AIG's recent retreat by liquidating their positions.

Meanwhile, the at-the-money March 25 put has seen close to 3,200 contracts change hands most of which have traded at the ask price, suggesting they were likely bought. What's more, the March 25 strike currently harbors fewer than 450 open put contracts, implying that a healthy portion of today's activity should translate into new positions after the closing bell.

Prior to today's drama on Capitol Hill, most near-term option speculators already boarded AIG's bearish bandwagon. The stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) currently rests at 1.14, implying that puts outnumber calls among options slated to expire within three months. Plus, this reading ranks in the 71st annual percentile, suggesting that short-term options speculators have been more skeptically skewed toward AIG only 29% of the time during the past 52 weeks.

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