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Despite ARM Holdings plc (ADR) (NASDAQ:ARMH - 41.64) continuing its trek into multi-year-high territory today, option players are scooping up puts with a fervor. Roughly 17,000 contracts have crossed the tape so far, representing more than 30 times the average intraday volume for put options. By comparison, fewer than 4,500 calls have changed hands. The most active strike on the day is ARMH's January 2013 41-strike put, which has seen 12,000 contracts trade. The majority of these have gone off at the ask price, implied volatility is on the rise, and there are currently no open positions at this strike -- making it safe to assume that new positions are being initiated.
By buying the out-of-the-money puts to open for a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $0.61, traders need ARMH to finish south of the $40.39 mark (the strike less the VWAP) by the close next Friday, when January options expire. This breakeven level is a 3% drop from the stock's current price.
However, data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) shows that today's penchant for puts is just more of the same for option traders. The stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio on these exchanges sits at 2.82, or 85% higher than similar readings taken in the past year. In other words, puts have been accumulated over calls at a faster-than-usual clip in recent weeks.
With the stock hitting the $41.85 mark today -- its loftiest perch since March 2000 -- and sporting a year-over-year advance of roughly 49%, this supposedly bearish trend in the options pits could simply be shareholders protecting their paper profits against a potential pullback. In fact, today's technical milestone sent ARMH soaring above its upper Bollinger Band, suggesting the security is wading in overbought waters.
With these protective put buyers being shareholders first and foremost, though, they won't mind that the stock is up more than 4% in today's session. ARMH was last seen lingering near $41.64.