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Internet gaming guru and Wall Street freshman Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA - 4.75) -- which went public in December 2011 -- has lopped off more than 71% since reaching an all-time best of $15.91 back on March 2. Now, the shares are faltering below the $5 level, touching an all-time worst of $4.45 in yesterday's action. Against this backdrop, however, it appears some options traders are employing calls to bet on bottom -- and some upside momentum over the coming month – for ZNGA. Others, meanwhile, maybe using these vehicles to bet on a further decline.
During the course of Tuesday's session, ZNGA saw roughly 45,000 calls cross the tape -- more than three times its average daily call volume, and roughly seven times the number of puts exchanged. Much of the attention centered on the August 5 call, which saw more than 18,000 contracts change hands -- the majority of which crossed at the ask price, suggesting they were bought. Plus, call open interest at this strike ballooned by 15,471 contracts overnight, hinting to buy-to-open activity. By purchasing these calls to open, traders believe that ZNGA will muscle back above $5 by August expiration.
Yesterday's affinity for long calls is supported by the growing optimism seen in the options pits during the past two weeks. Speculators on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) have bought to open 5.44 calls for every put, signaling that traders on these exchanges have shown a healthy appetite for bullish bets over bearish over the past 10 days. Plus, the equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.45 implies that calls more than double puts among options expiring within three months.
Possibly more in line with ZNGA's overall decline, some of the activity surrounding the August 5 call could be more bearishly skewed. One large block of 6,000 calls traded below the bid price, indicating that a premium seller was behind this trade. By writing the 5-strike calls to open, the speculator is expecting the shares of ZNGA to remain south of $5 throughout the options' lifetime. In this best-case scenario, the calls will expire worthless, and the seller can retain the entire premium received from the sale, which represents the maximum potential reward on the play.
At last check, ZNGA has jumped roughly 4% to trade in the $4.70-$4.80 neighborhood. Unless the stock can maintain this positive momentum, the optimists among the brokerage bunch could jump ship. There are eight "strong buy" endorsements for the security, versus nine "holds" and one "strong sell."