Today's column includes an executive shake-up at Barnes & Noble, Inc. (BKS), a new venture for AOL, Inc. (AOL), a boosted stock offering from Finisar Corporation (FNSR), and mixed brokerage notes on Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD). Each day, Early Edge focuses on the hot stocks in the news and gives you a unique insight into each stock's sentiment backdrop. Our time-tested contrarian approach centers on options, and gives you the trading tools to approach the day with a much-needed edge over the investing herd.
Barnes & Noble, Inc.
Barnes & Noble, Inc. (BKS) has tapped 39-year-old William Lynch as its new chief executive. Lynch, who is responsible for launching the bookstore chain's Nook electronic reader, currently serves as the head of Barnes & Noble's e-commerce business. Departing CEO Steve Riggio will remain on board as vice chairman of the company, and will continue to be "actively involved" in Barnes & Noble.
"William came to us as a skillful leader in e-commerce who, in a short period of time, has done a superb job in quickly establishing Barnes & Noble as a major player in e-commerce and digital content," said Leonard Riggio, who serves as the company's chairman. (And no, those matching last names are not a coincidence -- along with his brother Steve and a cabal of other insiders, Leonard holds a stake in BKS worth about 31%.)
BKS is up 0.5% in pre-market trading, adding to its year-to-date gain of 17.1%. The stock is struggling to maintain a foothold above resistance at its 100-week moving average, which has provided a technical ceiling since June 2007.
Option traders seem upbeat about the equity's prospects, with BKS' Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) checking in at 0.46. This slim ratio is resting just two percentage points from an annual low, indicating that short-term speculators have rarely been more bullish. However, with 31.2% of the stock's float sold short, some of these calls may have been picked up as hedges.
AOL, Inc. (AOL) said late Wednesday that it has dedicated $10 million for an internal venture capital fund meant to drive growth in local content services. The Internet media titan acquired Patch, a "hyperlocal" news service, for $7 million last year, and AOL's chief executive sees the area as an "untapped market."
"Local is the one area of the Internet that has not been built out in an extensive way," explained CEO Tim Armstrong. The new unit has yet to make its first investment.
AOL is up 3.5% ahead of the open, continuing its ascent along support from its 10-day and 20-day moving averages. These trendlines have pushed the shares higher since mid-February.
However, speculative investors are showing a bias toward bearish bets. AOL's 10-day International Securities Exchange (ISE) put/call volume ratio of 0.70 ranks higher than 68% of comparable readings, suggesting that traders are snapping up puts over calls at a faster pace than usual.
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