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Why Apple Inc. (AAPL) Speculators Are Watching $500

Traders have rarely purchased AAPL puts over calls at a faster pace

by 12/11/2012 12:42 PM
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Calls bought to open on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL - 547.49) have outnumbered puts during the past week, according to volume data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE) and Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). Over the past five sessions, speculators on the ISE and CBOE have bought to open 369,117 calls on the tech stock, compared to just 287,097 puts.

However, when it comes to AAPL, traders generally prefer calls over puts. So, just because bullishly oriented options are outpacing their bearish counterparts doesn't mean the mood on Wall Street is unanimously optimistic.

In fact, AAPL's 10-day put/call volume ratio on the ISE, CBOE, and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) stands at 0.71, which registers in the 91st percentile of its annual range. In other words, speculators on these three major exchanges have shown a healthier appetite for puts relative to calls only 9% of the time during the past year.

That's only a slightly less gloomy reading than the 50-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX put/call volume ratio for AAPL, which -- at 0.68 -- ranks in the 98th annual percentile, within two percentage points of an annual bearish peak.

AAPL with 50-Day ISE/CBOE/PHLX Put/Call Volume Ratio

In the front-month series, the December 500 put is a popular choice, with 14,949 contracts in residence. Taking a closer look at this strike, however, it appears to be a fairly even mix of buyer- and seller-initiated open interest. While some speculative bears (or anxious investors) may have purchased puts at this strike to brace for a potential drop below $500, it looks like quite a few neutral-to-bullish bettors sold to open 500-strike puts in the hopes that AAPL will remain above this century level through December expiration.

For the record, AAPL hasn't closed a week below $500 since Feb. 10, 2012. More recently, the $520 area has emerged as a layer of support for the tech giant.


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