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The shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG - 346.72) are bucking the broad-market trend lower today, fueling accelerated options activity -- especially on the call side of the aisle. However, digging deeper into the data, it looks like some speculators may be employing these typically bullish options to bet on limited upside for CMG.
In early afternoon trading, the security has seen roughly 15,000 calls change hands – nearly triple its average intraday call volume. On the other side, the equity has seen roughly 9,600 puts exchanged, compared to its typical midday volume of fewer than 5,000 puts.
Garnering notable attention have been the out-of-the-money September 355- and 360-strike calls, which have seen around 1,300 and 1,100 contracts traded, respectively. Volume has exceeded open interest at both soon-to-expire strikes, pointing to an influx of newly initiated positions. However, while the majority of 355-strike calls have changed hands at the ask price, suggesting they were bought, the bulk of the 360-strike calls have traded at the bid price, hinting at sell-to-open activity.
The volume-weighted average price of the September 355 calls is $3.50, meaning the buyers will begin to profit if CMG conquers the $358.50 level (strike plus premium paid) by Friday's close, when the options expire. On the other hand, the call sellers are hoping CMG remains south of $360 through the end of the week. In this best-case scenario, the calls will expire worthless, allowing the investors to retain the entire premium received from the sale.
From a broader sentiment standpoint, today's appetite for calls -- purchased calls, especially -- is nothing new for CMG. During the past two weeks, the stock has racked up a call/put volume ratio of 1.59 on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). In fact, this reading stands higher than 99% of all others taken during the past year, implying that options traders are initiating bullish bets over bearish at a near annual-high clip.
As a result, the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) now stands at 1.00, in the eighth percentile of its annual range. Or, in simpler terms, short-term options players have rarely been more call-heavy during the past year.
Technically speaking, it's no wonder bullish bets have picked up steam, with the shares of CMG jumping roughly 25% since tagging an annual low of $277.26 in early August. So far today, the equity has muscled about 3% higher, with some media reports attributing the jump to rumors of solid same-store sales in the third quarter. Nevertheless, the security is struggling to conquer its 80-day moving average -- a feat not accomplished since late June.