Schaeffer's Trading Floor Blog
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI - 13,578.80) is up 68 points, or 0.5%, thanks to a pair of upbeat economic reports. Specifically, the Labor Department said weekly jobless claims decreased by 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000 last week, notching a five-year low. Economists, on average, had predicted a drop to just 370,000. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department revealed that housing starts surged 12.1% in December to a seasonally adjusted yearly rate of 954,000, the highest level since mid-2008. This latest figure bested consensus estimates for a rise of just 3.4%. On a more downbeat note, the Philadelphia Fed reported that its manufacturing index dropped to negative 5.8 in January from a positive reading of 4.6 in the month prior -- disappointing economists, who were projecting a rise to 5.8. Elsewhere, the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX - 13.23) -- which fell to the 13.16 mark earlier, its lowest reading since June 2007 -- is 0.2 point, or 1.4%, lower.

Here are a few noteworthy stats at midday:

  1. The equity put/call volume ratio across all 11 options exchanges stands at 0.66, with 4.6 million calls crossing the tape so far today, compared to 3.1 million puts.

  2. Among the equities with heavy call activity is Tyco International Ltd (NYSE:TYC - 30.84), which has added about 1%, and tagged an 11-year peak of $30.89. Currently, calls account for 99.7% of the security's intraday option volume.

  3. The put/call volume ratio on the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEARCA:VXX - 25.37) -- which touched another record low of 25.05 this morning -- checks in at 1.54, with puts outnumbering calls.

  4. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shows an advance/decline ratio of 3.38, with the number of upward movers more than tripling the decliners.

  5. Among the NYSE's major advancers is CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS - 41.79), which has jumped over 10% -- and claimed a new multi-year high of $42.55 -- in intraday action. The company revealed on Wednesday plans to sell its European and Asian outdoor businesses, while converting its North and South American unit into a real estate investment trust (REIT). The news also triggered some bullish analyst attention this morning. Wedbush upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "neutral," and lifted its price target to $50 from $36, while Barclays, Lazard, Nomura, UBS, Deutsche Bank, and RBC also issued upward price-target adjustments.

  6. Optimism waned during the week ended Jan. 16, according to the latest survey by the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII). The percentage of investors with a bullish view on stocks fell to 44.0% from 46.5%, while the percentage bearish rose to 27.3% from 26.9%. Meanwhile, the percentage neutral increased to 28.7% from 26.6%.
Unusual Option Volume at Midday

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