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Call players are flocking to State Street Corporation (NYSE:STT - 53.24) today, following the financial firm's strong showing in the earnings confessional this morning. Around 4,800 contracts have crossed the tape so far, representing nearly seven times the average intraday volume for call options. With the January series effectively expiring at the end of today's session, near-term traders are turning their attention to the soon-to-be front-month series of options.
The most active strike on the day is STT's February 55 call, which has seen nearly 1,700 contracts change hands. A healthy portion of these have gone off at the ask price, and just 391 positions currently make up open interest. In other words, it appears new positions are being initiated. In order for these out-of-the-money calls to be profitable by February expiration, STT needs to rise 4% above current levels to topple breakeven at $55.40 (strike price plus the volume-weighted average price of $0.40) by the close on Friday, Feb. 15.
The outlook for STT wasn't so rosy heading into today's session, as evidenced by data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). Specifically, the stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.60 ranks higher than 74% of other such readings taken in the past year, indicating puts have been bought to open over calls at an accelerated clip in recent weeks.
Even more telling of this bearishly skewed bias is the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.70, which marks a new annual high for the reading. In other words, short-term speculators are more put-heavy now than at any other time within the past year.
However, it appears option traders are changing their tune on STT, after the Boston-based banking concern revealed this morning that -- excluding items -- it booked a fourth-quarter profit of $1.11 per share, besting analysts' projections for a profit of $1.00 per share. Revenue also arrived above expectations, and the company announced a round of layoffs in order to cut costs.
Wall Street is taking kindly to the news, pushing the stock to a new three-year high of $54.17 in today's session. At last check, the equity was up more than 5.5% to trade at $53.24. Should STT fail to maintain this positive price action through February expiration, the most today's call buyers have risked is the initial premium paid.