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Calls have easily emerged as the options of choice on Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE - 25.41) in today's session. Around 14,000 calls have changed hands at last check, nearly three times the number of put contracts traded. Short-term speculators are honing in on PFE's weekly 26-strike call, which expires one week from today. Nearly all of the roughly 1,300 contracts have crossed at the ask price, and volume is outstripping open interest -- two indications new positions are being initiated.
By purchasing the near-the-money 26-strike call, traders will profit with each step north of $26.15 (the strike plus the volume-weighted average price of $0.15) PFE takes through next Friday. This represents a 2.9% premium to the stock's current perch. Should PFE fail to topple this breakeven level, the most the traders stand to lose is the initial net debit paid.
Widening the scope, this preference for long calls is par for the course among option traders. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), speculators have scooped up almost four calls for every put during the past 10 sessions. Plus, this ratio ranks in the 84th percentile of its annual range, indicating calls have been bought to open over puts at a faster-than-usual clip in recent weeks.
Looking at PFE's technical backdrop, it's easy to see why bullish bets have been in fashion. On a year-to-date basis, the Dow component has added a formidable 17.4%. Since September 2011, the stock's upward momentum has enjoyed a double-barreled assist from its rising 10-week and 20-week moving averages. What's more, PFE jumped to a five-year high of $26.09 on Oct. 18, after the pharmaceutical company settled a lawsuit over its smoking-cessation drug Chantix.
Additionally, these near-term traders may be hoping for a post-earnings pop following next Tuesday's early morning announcement. PFE has a solid history in the earnings confessional, besting analysts' bottom-line expectations in each of the last four quarters. Wall Street is calling for a per-share profit of 53 cents for PFE's third quarter.