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QUALCOMM Traders Hope for a Post-Earnings Boost

As earnings loom, December call volume picks up steam on QCOM

by 10/26/2012 2:11 PM
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Bullish options activity is running hotter than usual on QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM - 58.77) today, which is currently up about 2.3%. Roughly 25,000 calls have crossed the tape so far -- denoting a 56% increase over the equity's expected intraday call volume, and more than doubling the number of puts exchanged.

Garnering notable attention has been the out-of-the-money December 60 strike, where north of 4,400 calls have changed hands -- three-quarters of them at the ask price, pointing to buy-to-open activity. These contracts were traded at a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $1.60 each. Because today's volume exceeds current open interest levels -- along with the fact that implied volatility was last seen 1.6 percentage points higher -- we can assume that new positions are being established here. By purchasing these calls to open, speculators are betting that the stock will surmount $61.60 (strike price plus VWAP) by the time December options expire.

Today's upswing in call activity seems to be part of QCOM's wider optimistic trend. In fact, traders on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) have bought to open more than three calls for every put during the past two weeks. This 10-day call/put volume ratio of 3.32 ranks higher than 86% of similar readings gathered during the last 52 weeks. In other words, speculators have picked up bullish bets over bearish at a faster pace just 14% of the time over the past year.

As a result, Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) for QCOM checks in at 0.83, confirming calls outstrip puts among options slated to expire in the next three months. This ratio's 45th annual percentile ranking reflects a slightly healthier-than-usual appetite for calls over puts lately.

Most of the sentiment toward QCOM among the brokerage bunch is overwhelmingly upbeat. The telecomm issue boasts 28 "strong buys" and five "buy" recommendations, versus two "holds" and not a single "sell" rating. What's more, Thomson Reuters pegs the equity's average 12-month price target at $70.65, representing a 23% premium to Thursday's closing price of $57.43.

Although QCOM has gained more than 7% year-to-date, the stock remains pinned beneath its downward sloping 10-day moving average, which has served as resistance for more than a month. However, the company is scheduled to report quarterly earnings on Nov. 7, and has topped consensus bottom-line estimates in three of the past four quarters. Today's bulls may be hoping for another earnings surprise to the upside, which could provide a tailwind for the shares prior to December expiration.


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