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Weekly option traders have set their sights on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL - 664.10), with both calls and puts flying off the shelves. In fact, digging deeper into the data, it appears speculators may be employing both long puts and short calls to place neutral-to-bearish bets on the Silicon Valley sultan.
During the course of Monday's session, AAPL saw roughly 484,000 calls and 350,000 puts change hands, surpassing its average daily volume of around 424,000 calls and 264,000 puts. On the call side, it seems speculators sold to open the weekly 670-, 690-, and 700-strike calls, as open interest rose at all three strikes, and the majority of the contracts traded at the bid price.
By writing the calls to open, the sellers are expecting AAPL to end the week beneath the respective strikes, allowing them to pocket the entire premium received at initiation. What's more, demand for AAPL's short-term options is on the rise, thanks to the company's highly anticipated iPhone 5 debut tomorrow. In other words, the sellers are trying to exploit relatively pricey premiums to bet on limited upside for AAPL over the next few days.
On the flip side, it looks like the more "vanilla" option bears scooped up weekly 660-, 665-, and 670-strike puts. Again, open interest rose at all three strikes overnight, but the bulk of the contracts crossed at the ask price, suggesting they were purchased. By buying the puts to open, the traders are gambling on AAPL to end the week south of the respective strikes.
However, puts have become increasingly popular heading into the aforementioned iPhone launch. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.60 registers in the 64th percentile of its annual range, suggesting speculators have initiated bearish bets over bullish at a faster-than-usual clip during the past couple of weeks.
Echoing that trend, the security's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.87 stands higher than 77% of all other readings of the past year. Or, simply put, AAPL's near-term options crowd is much more put-heavy than usual at the moment.
The stock still has plenty of fans on the Street, though. In fact, the equity boasts 35 "strong buys" and four "buy" endorsements from analysts, compared to just one lukewarm "hold" and not a single "sell" or worse rating. Furthermore, short interest accounts for a miniscule 1.4% of the tech titan's total available float, and would take less than two sessions to unwind, at AAPL's average daily volume.
At last check, the shares of AAPL have edged 0.2% higher to wink at the $664.10 level. From a longer-term perspective, the equity is dawdling between its 10-day and 20-day moving averages, which have ushered the shares more than 25% higher since mid-May.