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Put activity has been picking up steam on Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO - 14.90) lately, according to the stock's rising Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.85, which ranks in the 97th percentile of its annual range. In other words, traders have been more put-heavy toward the equity just 3% of the time during the past year. Likewise, the security's 10-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) put/call volume ratio of 0.48 is docked in the 86th annual percentile, meaning buyers have been picking up puts over calls at an accelerated pace.
This pessimistic backdrop makes today's uptick in call activity that much more unusual, as roughly 56,000 of these options have crossed the tape so far -- tripling the equity's expected intraday volume, and about 1.4 times the number of puts traded. Most active has been the January 2013 12.50 strike, where 23,250 calls have changed hands -- all of them at the ask price, suggesting they were bought. Additionally, these contracts traded at a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $2.55. Because implied volatility has increased by 1.5 percentage points during the session -- coupled with the fact that this strike currently holds open interest of just 6,136 contracts -- implies that new positions are being initiated here today. In order to collect a profit on these bought-to-open calls, the stock must perforate $15.05 (strike price plus net debit paid) by January expiration.
However, most of the analysts covering the Internet behemoth seem to be feeling cautious toward YHOO. Only five "buy" or better recommendations have been handed out, compared to 19 "holds" and one "sell" suggestion. This wary attitude is not unfounded, as the security has declined by roughly 8% so far this year, and has lagged the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) north of 11 percentage points during the last three months.
On the charts, the stock has yet to reclaim support at its 200-day moving average -- a trendline that was breached earlier this month after news hit the Street that shareholders may be left out of the profit loop regarding the sale of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Today's call activity comes on the heels of the company replacing Mollie Spilman -- its chief marketing officer of just three months -- with Kathy Savitt. Perhaps the aforementioned bulls are holding out hope that all of the recent changes in YHOO will bring about a solid recovery by early next year.