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Are LinkedIn Bulls Buying Portfolio Insurance?

LNKD put volume soared to nearly twice the norm

by 1/16/2013 10:44 AM
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Option traders waxed pessimistic on Linkedin Corporation (NYSE:LNKD - 118.00) on Tuesday, as evidenced by the healthier-than-usual appetite for puts. By the closing bell, the professional networking concern had seen close to 7,200 puts cross the tape -- almost double the norm. For comparison, fewer than 4,400 LNKD calls changed hands.

Most active was the January 2013 115-strike put, which saw 2,800 contracts exchanged at a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $0.66. Open interest rose overnight, and most of the puts traded at the ask price, hinting at buy-to-open activity.

By purchasing the puts to open, the buyers are expecting LNKD to breach the $114.34 level (strike minus VWAP) by the closing bell on Friday, when front-month options expire. However, even if LNKD remains north of the strike, the most the buyers can lose is the initial premium paid for the puts.

Currently, LNKD's soon-to-expire options look like a bargain, relatively speaking. The stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 41% stands just 17 percentage points from an annual low, suggesting front-month premiums are comparatively cheap right now. This, juxtaposed with LNKD's longer-term uptrend, could suggest that LNKD shareholders were buying the puts as short-term options "insurance" to guard against a potential pullback.

Whatever the motive, near-term options traders clearly prefer puts over calls. The stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.08 stands higher than 74% of all other readings of the past year, suggesting short-term speculators are more put-skewed than usual right now.

At last check, LNKD is trading fractionally higher at $118. Since dipping below $95 in mid-November, the shares have added about 25%. Should the security extend its upward momentum, and unwinding of pessimism in the options pits could add contrarian fuel to the fire.


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