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Ahead of tonight's earnings release, Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ - 16.70) option traders have been upping the bullish ante. During the course of yesterday's session, the tech titan saw roughly 48,000 call options change hands -- a 57% mark-up to its average daily call volume, and more than double the number of HPQ puts exchanged.
Most popular was the weekly 2/22 17.50-strike call, which saw nearly 21,500 contracts cross the tape. A healthy portion of the calls traded on the ask side, and call open interest at the soon-to-expire strike skyrocketed overnight, pointing to newly bought bullish bets.
By purchasing the calls at a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $0.28, the buyers expect HPQ to soar north of $17.78 (strike plus VWAP) -- in territory not charted since mid-September -- by tomorrow's closing bell, when the options expire. Considering the company is slated to unveil its quarterly earnings report after the close today, it appears these speculators are hoping for a post-earnings jump. However, even if HPQ remains beneath the strike through week's end, the most the buyers can lose is the initial premium paid for the calls.
From a broader sentiment standpoint, HPQ's options crowd has grown increasingly bullish over the past couple of weeks. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), traders have bought to open twice as many calls as puts. In fact, the equity's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 2.0 ranks in the 80th percentile of its annual range, suggesting speculators are scooping up calls at a faster-than-usual clip.
Reflecting the growing demand for front-month options is the stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI), which has soared to 43% -- above 47% of all other readings of the past year. Or, in simpler terms, HPQ's short-term options are relatively pricey at the moment.
On the charts, HPQ has added 17.2% in 2013, but seems to have stalled beneath the $17-$17.50 neighborhood. Furthermore, the equity's 200-day moving average is descending into the area; this trendline hasn't been toppled on a daily closing basis in more than a year.
Off the charts, Hewlett-Packard has exceeded Wall Street's bottom-line earnings estimates in each of the past four quarters. For its fiscal first quarter, analysts, on average, are expecting a per-share profit of 71 cents.