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Speculators have swarmed Starbucks Corporation (SBUX) today, with option volume soaring well beyond the equity's daily average. So far, about 61,000 calls and 5,015 puts have changed hands, compared to SBUX's typical daily option volume of 8,244 calls and 2,836 puts.

SBUX price chartMost of this volume is the result of a massive spread strategy that crossed the tape earlier. It looks like a moderately bearish bettor opted to sell roughly 23,000 contracts of the November 28 call, and simultaneously buy about 23,000 November 30 calls. The ultimate goal of this short call spread is for SBUX to settle at or below $28 upon November expiration.

This speculator could be anticipating a lackluster earnings reaction from SBUX, which is set to the take the stage next Thursday, Nov. 4, to unveil its fiscal fourth-quarter results. The coffee chain is expected to report a profit of 32 cents per share, up from 24 cents in the year-ago period. SBUX has exceeded Wall Street's consensus profit expectations in each of the past four quarters.

Despite this impressive earnings history, it's hard to overlook the significance of resistance at $28 -- which no doubt lured in today's skeptical spread trader. The $28 level has kept a lid on SBUX's progress since June 2007, reprising the role of resistance it played throughout much of 2005. However, SBUX is currently poised to notch a monthly finish above $28, which suggests this technical ceiling could be weakening.


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