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TripAdvisor Inc (NASDAQ:TRIP - 33.67) was targeted by short- and long-term option players throughout Wednesday's session. In fact, the majority of the roughly 14,000 calls and puts that collectively crossed the tape were traded at the August 35-strike call, September 31-strike put, and January 2013 33-strike put.
Beginning with the eleventh-hour speculators, the bulk of the nearly 1,700 August 35-strike calls that crossed the tape during yesterday's session traded at the ask price. With open interest adding more than 1,600 contracts at this strike overnight, it's safe to assume new bullish positions were created here. By buying these calls to open at the volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $0.22, traders need TRIP to muscle above $35.22 (the strike plus the premium paid), or 4.6% higher, over the next two sessions in order to be profitable by Friday's closing bell.
Looking out to the September series of options, neutral-to-bullish option players honed in on the 31-strike put, which saw around 4,740 contracts trade for the average bid price of $0.87. Implied volatility at this strike edged up to 47.4%, and open interest increased by more than 4,250 contracts -- indicating new positions were established. In order for this group of put writers to pocket the maximum potential profit of $0.87, or the initial premium collected, TRIP needs to finish north of the $31 level on Friday, Sept. 21.
Speculators also used this "get paid to wait" strategy in the longer-term (possibly taking advantage of the higher premiums that are often associated with additional time value), by selling to open roughly 5,100 January 2013 33-strike puts. Close to all of these contracts crossed at the bid price, and open interest rose by 5,000 overnight, confirming the neutral-to-bullish activity. The VWAP for this strike on Wednesday ran at a lofty $3.94 per contract, which is also the full potential reward for the speculators, as long as TRIP stays north of the $33 mark over the next five months.
On a technical basis, TRIP has had respectable run on the charts, adding 22% since going public on Dec. 7. However, the shares took a tumble following the online travel concern's dismal second-quarter results in later July, and have struggled since. In fact, over the last 20 trading sessions, the stock has lagged the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by more than 26 percentage points, on a relative-strength basis.
At last check, the equity was trading around 0.5% lower. Today's dip puts the stock on track to end a fourth straight session south of the $34 mark -- an area that served as support throughout late March and all of April. While this trend could prove to be troublesome for the August call buyers, the most the speculators have to lose is the initial premium paid.