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Hewlett-Packard Company's (NYSE:HPQ - 13.76) roughly 2% retreat in today's session has bearish speculators circling. Around 14,000 puts have crossed the tape so far – exceeding the average intraday volume for put options by 23%. The most active strike so far is HPQ's February 13 put, which has seen more than 5,900 contracts trade. Almost all of these have gone off at the ask price, and implied volatility was last seen 1.5 percentage points higher, suggesting new positions are being initiated here today.
In order for these bearish bets to be profitable, HPQ needs to drop 9.6% by Feb. 15 -- at which point these options expire -- in order to breach the breakeven level of $12.44 (the strike minus the volume-weighted average price [VWAP] of $0.56).
Today's action notwithstanding, option traders have taken a more optimistic outlook toward HPQ in recent weeks. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 2.13 ranks higher than 79% of other such readings taken in the past year, indicating a healthier-than-usual appetite for long calls over puts of late.
This recent trend toward calls is a bit puzzling, given the Dow component's well-documented technical and fundamental struggles. As a refresher, HPQ has lagged the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by roughly 17 percentage points over the past 60 sessions, as well as surrendering 46.6% of its value in 2012. Going forward, the stock could meet some contrarian headwinds, should some of these bullish speculators begin to jump ship in light of the equity's ongoing chart troubles.
Today's continued bout of dismal price action comes on the heels of yesterday's announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice will be investigating the company's blighted acquisition of Autonomy. At last check, the stock was hovering near $13.76.