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Option Volume Briefs: Hedging on the Small Caps

Call selling popular in UWM today

by 9/5/2012 12:41 PM
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Options traders are taking a neutral-to-bearish stance today on the ProShares Ultra Russell2000 (ETF) (NYSEARCA:UWM - 42.69). This ETF aims to mirror the returns of the Russell 2000 Index (RUT) -- and then double them. In other words, it is aggressively (or "ultra") bullish on the small-cap issues that comprise the RUT.

Today, UWM has seen more than 4,400 call options change hands, which is more than 58 times the average daily call volume. In contrast, only 13 put contracts have traded today.

The bulk of this volume has traded at the September 43 strike, where 4,352 contracts have changed hands versus existing open interest of 322. The average price for these calls is $1.10, closer to the bid price. Couple this fact with declining implied volatility at the strike -- which has dropped 2.4% today -- and it is likely that these calls are being sold to open.

The investors selling these options anticipate the ETF will continue to hover below $43 through September expiration. If so, these calls expire worthless, and the call sellers keep the premium collected as profit. This could also be half of a covered-call strategy. This would suggest the traders are content to sell out of UWM shares at the $43 price point, should the option expire in-the-money and the investor be called away.

Today's volume is quite a departure from the recent trend. Though volume has been scant, the 50-day put/call volume ratio at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) weighs in at 7.60. In other words, 7.6 puts have been bought to open during the past 2-1/2 months for every call. This ratio reading is just two percentage points shy of an annual peak, suggesting a near-extreme in bearish speculation among UWM speculators (despite the security's year-over-year advance of nearly 38%).


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