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Put volume has picked up speed on General Electric Company (NYSE:GE - 23.20) today, and one group of speculators is betting on a longer-term struggle for the Dow component. By the numbers, around 26,000 contracts have crossed the tape so far, representing a 35% mark-up to the average intraday volume for put options. GE's June 23 put has emerged as one of the more popular strikes on the day, as nearly 2,900 contracts have traded. Almost all of these have gone off at the ask price, implied volatility has edged higher, and volume is outstripping open interest, pointing to the initiation of new positions.
By buying these out-of-the-money puts to open for a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $0.88, traders will begin to profit with each step south of $22.12 (strike less the VWAP) GE takes through June expiration. GE needs to move 4.7% from its current perch to be in profitable territory at expiration. Should the stock fail to breach the 23 strike by the time the puts expire, the most today's put buyers have risked is the initial premium paid.
Expanding the sentiment scope reveals that calls have been in favor in GE's options pits in recent months. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), speculators have bought to open 382 calls for every 100 puts throughout the past 50 sessions. This call/put volume ratio of 3.82 ranks in the 99th percentile of its annual range, suggesting calls have been accumulated over puts with more rapidity just 1% of the time within the last year.
On the charts, GE has put in a solid performance, with the shares up more than 20% on a year-over-year basis. More recently, a quick bounce off its 50-week moving average in early January gave GE the push it needed to rally to a fresh four-year peak of $23.75 on Tuesday.
In light of this technical tenacity -- as well as the withstanding trend in the options pits -- it could be that today's attention toward out-of-the-money puts may simply represent shareholders protecting their profits against a potential pullback. As it turns out, the equity's Relative Strength Index (RSI) of 67 is wading dangerously close to overbought waters, suggesting a near-term consolidation could be in the works.