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Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has been in a post-earnings slump since reporting its quarterly results last Thursday night, with the shares off more than 10%. This negative price action didn't stop calls from flying off the shelves yesterday. By the time the closing bell rang, roughly 268,000 calls had crossed the tape, or more than three times the average daily volume. However, diving deeper into the data reveals not all of this accelerated call activity was of the traditional bullish variety.
Shortly before lunchtime, two similarly sized blocks of October 30 calls and January 2014 32-strike calls changed hands on the NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). According to Trade-Alert, the October 30 calls were bought to close for $2.32 per contract. Meanwhile, the same speculator sold to open the January 2014 32-strike calls for $1.59. Open interest at the strikes dropped and rose, respectively, overnight making it safe to assume that this trader was, indeed, rolling out his neutral-to-bearish position.
Amid Microsoft's earning-induced sell-off, the stock has fallen to the $31.82 mark. As such, by writing the January 2014 32-strike calls, Monday's speculator expects the stock to remain churning south of $32 over the next six months. In this best-case scenario, the calls will expire worthless, and the trader will retain the initial net credit collected as the full potential reward.
Broadening the sentiment scope shows that options players have been tending toward the bearish side of the aisle for some time now. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and PHLX, the stock's 50-day put/call volume ratio of 0.86 ranks in the 98th percentile of its annual range. In other words, puts have been bought to open over calls with more rapidity just 2% of the time within the past year.
It's not too surprising to see skepticism levied toward a stock that's edged up a modest 8.7% year-over-year. More recently, the shares have lagged the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by nearly 12 percentage points throughout the past 20 sessions.
Going forward, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) could be poised to encounter some contrarian-related headwinds in the near term. No fewer than 11 out of 27 analysts maintain a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation toward MSFT. Should the stock continue to struggle, another round of downgrades may apply additional pressure to Microsoft.