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Call buyers are converging on Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC - 21.22) today, with bulls gambling on more short-term upside for the blue-chip tech stock. So far today, INTC has seen about 75,000 call options change hands, nearly tripling its average midday call volume.
Most popular is the January 2013 22.50-strike call, which has seen almost 31,500 contracts cross the tape -- mostly at the ask price, suggesting they were bought. Plus, implied volatility was last seen 4.3 percentage points higher, hinting at fresh initiations.
By purchasing the calls to open, the buyers are expecting INTC to muscle atop the $22.50 level within the next couple of weeks. More specifically, the front-month calls traded at a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $0.13, meaning the buyers need INTC to conquer the $22.63 level (strike plus VWAP) by January options expiration next Friday. However, even if INTC remains beneath the strike through Jan. 18 -- a day after the company's earnings release -- the most the buyers can lose is the initial premium paid for the calls.
Meanwhile, option bulls have also shown a fondness for the weekly 1/11 21.50- and 22-strike calls, which have each seen more than 6,600 contracts change hands. Volume has surpassed open interest at both strikes, hinting at new short-term bets. The VWAP of the 21.50-strike calls is $0.14, while the VWAP of the 22-strike calls is $0.04, indicating breakeven levels of $21.64 and $22.04, respectively. However, the buyers have just over four trading days for their bullish positions to pan out.
From a broader sentiment perspective, today's appetite for short-term calls runs counter to the trend. The stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.04 registers in the 82nd percentile of its annual range, suggesting near-term options players are more put-skewed than usual at the moment.
In early afternoon trading, the shares of INTC have tacked on 0.3% to wink at the $21.22 level, after Lazard upgraded the stock to "buy" from "neutral." Furthermore, speculators are undoubtedly awaiting the company's turn in the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) spotlight later today.