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Is Nike Headed Above 100?

NKE call buyers may be betting on a post-earnings pop

by 9/21/2012 9:31 AM
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The shares of NIKE, Inc. (NYSE:NKE - 96.72) pulled back along with most equities yesterday, but some options traders are expecting the athletic apparel guru to explore triple-digit territory soon. By the closing bell, NKE had seen roughly 22,000 calls cross the tape -- about four times its average single-session call volume, and close to double the number of NKE puts exchanged.

Garnering the most attention was the weekly 9/28 100-strike call, which saw more than 4,400 contracts traded. A healthy portion of the calls crossed at the ask price, and call open interest at the weekly strike soared by nearly 2,600 contracts overnight, pointing to buy-to-open activity.

By purchasing the calls to open, the buyers are betting on NKE to climb north of $100 by next Friday, Sept. 28 -- a session after the company unveils its fiscal first-quarter earnings. More specifically, the volume-weighted average price of the calls was $1.48, meaning the buyers will begin to profit if NKE topples the $101.48 level (strike plus premium paid) within the next week.

However, yesterday's affinity for short-term puts stands in stark contrast to the stock's current sentiment backdrop. In fact, the equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) sits at 1.90, indicating that puts nearly double calls among options expiring within three months. Plus, this ratio rests just two percentage points from a 52-week peak, implying that near-term options speculators have rarely been more put-biased during the past year.

Elsewhere, fewer than half of the analysts following NKE consider it worthy of a "buy" or better rating. Likewise, the consensus 12-month price target on the stock stands at $105.87, implying expected upside of just 9.5% to NKE's closing price of $96.72 on Thursday.

Technically speaking, the shares of NKE are trading right around year-to-date breakeven levels, and are sandwiched between their 10-month and 20-month moving averages. This duo ushered NKE higher from May 2009 until June 2012, but the former trendline could reinforce psychological resistance at the round-number century mark.

Monthly Chart of NKE since March 2009 With 10-Month and 20-Month Moving Averages

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