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The shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL - 642.88) touched a record high of $644.13 today, and it looks like some options speculators are expecting the stock to head even higher before the closing bell. Already today, the tech titan has seen roughly 247,000 calls cross the tape, representing an increase of 85% to its average single-session call volume. On the flip side, just 131,000 AAPL puts have changed hands.
Garnering the most attention have been the August 640 and 645 calls, which have seen around 47,000 and 41,000 contracts traded, respectively. Volume has outstripped open interest at both strikes, and the bulk of the calls have crossed at the ask price, pointing to last-minute buy-to-open activity ahead of August expiration.
By purchasing the calls to open, the buyers are expecting AAPL to muscle even higher this afternoon. Specifically, the volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of the 640-strike call stands at $2.95, indicating the buyers will profit as long as AAPL ends north of $642.95 (strike plus premium paid) today. Meanwhile, the VWAP of the 645-strike call stands at $0.74, suggesting the buyers will reap a reward if AAPL topples the $645.74 level -- marking yet another record high.
However, today's affinity for short-term calls runs counter to the stock's current sentiment backdrop. In fact, the security's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.00 stands just three percentage points from a 12-month peak, suggesting near-term options players have rarely been more put-heavy during the past year.
Bolstering the security today could've been an encouraging analyst note from Jefferies, which upped its price-target on the stock to $900 from $800. What's more, the brokerage firm said its channel checks and July sales figures in Taiwain point to higher-than-anticipated current-quarter iPad output. As such, Jefferies believes the buzzed-about iPad Mini could be unveiled along with the iPhone 5 on Sept. 12.
At last check, the shares of AAPL have pared some of their earlier gains, but remain 1% higher to wink at $642.88.