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Call volume ramped up on Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX - 45.07) during the course of Monday's session, with roughly 18,000 of these bullish bets crossing the tape -- representing 1.17 times the stock's average daily call activity. Meanwhile, fewer than 9,500 puts changed hands on SBUX.
Taking a closer look, one spread strategist was responsible for a healthy portion of the day's call volume. In mid-morning action, a block of 2,400 September 46 calls traded at the ask price of $1.10, while a matching block of 2,400 September 52.50 calls traded at the bid price of $0.11. Open interest at both strikes rose overnight by approximately 2,400 contracts, suggesting these were all newly opened positions.
In other words, this appears to be a long call spread on SBUX, with the trader looking for a finish at or above $52.50 by back-month expiration. The moderately bullish play was initiated for a net debit of $0.99, which means the trader will begin to profit on a move above $46.99 (purchased call strike plus net debit). However, no matter how high the stock should rally prior to September expiration, the maximum potential gain is limited to the difference between the two call strikes, less the initial debit -- in this case, $5.51.
Meanwhile, if SBUX should remain at or below $46 through the next seven weeks, the most the trader stands to lose is that initial upfront expense of $0.99.
Based on Monday's closing price of $43.48, yesterday's call spread player is looking for SBUX to rally more than 8% during the short term. For perspective, the stock has gained nearly 28% over the past 52 weeks, but it's down 5.5% year-to-date.
Shares of the coffee chain were hit hard after a poorly received earnings report in late July, but SBUX appears to have found a foothold atop long-term support at its rising 20-month moving average. At last check, the stock is up about 3.6% today after announcing a partnership with Crumbs Bake Shop (NASDAQ:CRMB).