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Traders Think Halliburton Company (HAL) Has Gas Left in the Tank

Call buyers may be helped by HAL's impending visit to the earnings confessional

by 7/3/2013 12:16 PM
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Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) has been a technical standout over the long-term. The energy issue is up more than 42% in the past 52 weeks, and continues to follow its 120-day moving average to new heights. Less than two months ago, in fact, HAL touched an annual high of $45.75, before pulling back to -- and bouncing off of -- the aforementioned trendline.

In today's options pits, traders are lining up for the August 44 call, motivated by a price-target revision to $50 from $47 at Howard Weil (although Bernstein also cut its price target by $1 to $53). In particular, greater than 5,400 contracts have traded at the strike, with 75% coming in at the ask -- indicating they were bought. With volume outstripping open interest and implied volatility rising, it's safe to assume the positions are newly created, as well.

The volume-weighted average price (VWAP) for the Halliburton calls is $1.20. Therefore, for the traders to profit, they need the shares to topple $45.20 (strike price plus VWAP) by back-month expiration, on Aug. 16. That's not too far from the stock's present post at $42.82.

Plus, the shares may be helped by HAL's July 22 appearance in the earnings confessional, where the company has fared well historically. Specifically, Halliburton has surpassed per-share earnings estimates in three of its last four reports, with gains averaging 5.7% a week after the fact.

In options land, however, Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) has had a rough go of it lately. In the last two weeks, traders at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) have bought to open just 7,838 calls compared to over 20,800 puts. The resultant 10-day put/call volume ratio of 2.66 ranks in the 96th percentile of its annual range, confirming an accelerated rate of put buying relative to call buying.

In the event that HAL continues to climb the charts, however, an unwinding of pessimism among option traders could add fuel to the equity's fire.


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