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Despite Sprint Nextel Corporation's (NYSE:S - 5.68) more than 4% drop in today's session, calls have emerged as the options of choice. Around 43,000 calls have crossed the tape at last check, compared to roughly 28,000 puts. The most active option so far is S' February 6 call, which has seen around 8,600 contracts trade. A healthy portion of these have gone off at the ask price, and implied volatility is up 2.5 percentage points, indicating that some of today's volume is of the buy-to-open variety.
By purchasing these out-of-the-money calls for a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $0.05, traders need S to muscle above breakeven at $6.05 (strike plus VWAP) by the close on Friday, Feb. 15, at which point the options will expire. This is a 6.5% pop from current levels.
Today's tendency toward calls echoes the withstanding trend seen in the options pits in recent weeks. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), traders have bought to open more than eight calls for every put throughout the previous 10 sessions. This call/put volume ratio of 8.45 ranks higher than 82% of other such readings taken in the past year, suggesting calls have been accumulated over puts at a faster-than-usual clip.
As mentioned, the stock is suffering in today's session, following this morning's bearish brokerage attention. Over the longer term, though, S has been a technical standout, with the shares up roughly 146% on a year-over-year basis. Today's analyst-induced pullback has S testing a foothold atop its 50-day moving average. While this trendline has ushered the stock higher since June, it failed to provide support for S in late December.
If the equity is unable to resume its upward momentum over the next five weeks until expiration (a time frame that encompasses the company's fourth-quarter earnings release), the most today's call buyers stand to lose is the initial premium paid.