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Despite a lack of notable headlines, Juniper Networks, Inc. (NYSE:JNPR - 17.42) climbed 4% during Tuesday's session, which may have lured bullish traders to the options pits. Approximately 20,000 calls changed hands yesterday, which was more than seven times the norm. By contrast, fewer than 7,000 puts were traded.
A large portion of the action occurred at the October 17 strike, where north of 5,800 calls were exchanged at a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $0.48. The majority of these contracts crossed at the ask price, signaling buyer-fueled activity. Because open interest at this strike rose by 1,132 contracts overnight, we can assume that at least some of the volume was comprised of newly added positions. In order for traders to secure a profit from these near-the-money calls, the stock will need to surmount $17.48 (strike plus VWAP) by front-month expiration this Friday.
Indeed, calls have been ruling the options pits prior to yesterday's session. In fact, JNPR's 10-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) call/put volume ratio stands at 9.77, signaling calls bought to open have outpaced puts by a margin of nearly 10 to one. This ratio ranks higher than 85% of other such readings taken during the past year, reflecting a stronger-than-usual preference for bullish bets over bearish.
As a result, the equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) checks in at 0.51, indicating calls nearly double puts among options slated to expire within the next three months. This ratio resides in the 24th percentile of its annual range, meaning short-term traders have been more call-heavy toward JNPR less than one-fourth of the time during the past 52 weeks.
Meanwhile, most of the analysts covering the network infrastructure provider have cast a wary eye at JNPR. Only eight "buy" or better ratings have been bestowed upon the stock, versus 21 "holds" and zero "sell" recommendations. What's more, the security's average 12-month price target of $18.73 is just a stone's throw away from Tuesday's closing price of $17.48.
JNPR has been an underachiever on the technical front, having surrendered more than 18% on a year-over-year basis, and lagging the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by about seven percentage points during the past four weeks. However, the stock has managed to close two straight sessions above its 10-day moving average, which had previously acted as resistance for nearly a month. If the shares can keep trekking higher over the next couple of days, yesterday's call players could end up collecting a profit on their bullish strategies.