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Bond insurer MBIA Inc. (NYSE:MBI - 10.41) enjoyed a halo lift yesterday, finishing north of its 200-day moving average -- and in double digits -- for the first time since October. What's more, the options crowd anticipates even more upside for MBI in the near term, judging by yesterday's relatively rare spike in call activity.
By the closing bell, the stock had seen about 19,000 calls change hands -- roughly four times the norm. For comparison, fewer than 5,200 MBI puts were exchanged. Digging deeper, traders established new positions at the March 11 call, which saw open interest surge by more than 2,100 contracts overnight. Plus, nearly two-thirds of the calls traded at the ask price, hinting at buyer-driven volume.
By purchasing the calls to open, the buyers expect MBI to topple the $11 level within the next few weeks. More specifically, the calls crossed at a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $0.36, meaning the buyers will make money if the stock conquers the $11.36 marker (strike plus VWAP) by the close on Friday, March 15, when the back-month options expire. However, even if MBI takes a breather and remains south of the strike, the most the buyers can lose is the initial premium paid for the calls.
As alluded to earlier, yesterday's affinity for long calls marks a change of pace among MBI speculators. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the equity's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.83 stands in the 84th percentile of its annual range, implying that option buyers have picked up MBI puts over calls at a faster-than-usual clip during the past two weeks.
Likewise, the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.68 stands higher than 64% of all other readings of the past year. Or, in simpler terms, near-term options traders are more put-biased than usual right now.
On the charts, the shares of MBI have advanced nearly 33% in 2013 -- much of that courtesy of yesterday's 17.9% rally. Bolstering the stock was news that a judge ordered lender Flagstar Bancorp (NYSE:FBC) to pay MBI sector peer Assured Guaranty Ltd. (NYSE:AGO) $90.1 million to resolve a contract dispute regarding mortgage-backed securities. "This ruling is a significant milestone in forcing the banks to honor the contractual commitments they made and have long sought to avoid," said Assured attorney Jacob Buchdahl of Susman Godfrey.