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Sparked by reports that it could be venturing into retail store operations, search engine giant Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG - 801.65) hit a new all-time high today, brushing $804.00, and option traders responded. Option volume on GOOG is nearly 1.5 times a normal day, and so far calls are outpacing puts, with 35,000 calls traded versus 34,000 puts.
The most popular strike so far has been the weekly 2/22 800-strike call, which has seen more than 5,200 contracts cross. Implied volatility has jumped by 7.6 percentage points today, the majority of the contracts have traded off the ask price, and volume is greater than open interest, meaning that at least some of these calls were purchased to open. With a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $6.25, these traders need the stock to rise to $806.25 (strike plus VWAP) at the close on Friday to break even -- about 0.6% from its current level. Otherwise, the traders would lose the premium paid.
Today's tempered bullish sentiment toward GOOG mirrors what's been happening in the options pits lately. The equity's 10-day call/put volume ratio on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) is 1.34 -- a reading in the 63rd annual percentile -- meaning traders have been slightly more call-heavy than usual during the past two weeks.
The new high shouldn't be a surprise to traders, given GOOG's recent technical performance. The equity has jumped 26% since hitting a recent low of $636.00 on Nov. 16 and is up roughly 32% year over year. The company also could be looking to launch retail stores much like competitor Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL - 455.62), possibly impinging further on that tech giant's turf and taking market share from a different arena.