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General Electric Option Players Brace for a Pullback

GE's May 20 put is seeing buy-to-open activity today

by 2/4/2013 11:53 AM
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General Electric Company (NYSE:GE - 22.38) has shed about 1% in today's session, and option players are taking notice. Around 13,000 puts have crossed the tape so far, representing an 18% mark-up to GE's average intraday put volume. Longer-term skeptics are turning their attention to the stock's May 20 put, which has seen roughly 1,950 contracts trade. Nearly all of these have gone off at the ask price, and just 770 contracts currently make up open interest here, suggesting that some of today's volume is of the buy-to-open variety.

In order for these out-of-the-money puts to be profitable, traders need GE to slide 11.7% from current levels to land below $19.77 (strike less volume-weighted average price of $0.23) by the close on Friday, May 17, at which point the options will expire. Should the equity fail to breach this breakeven level, the most the traders have risked is the initial premium paid.

Widening the scope reveals that calls have been the options of choice on GE in recent weeks. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), traders have bought to open 60,450 calls, versus 18,751 puts, throughout the past 10 sessions. The resultant call/put volume ratio of 3.22 ranks higher than 68% of other such readings taken in the past year, implying a healthier-than-usual appetite for bullish bets over bearish of late.

Technically, the stock has fared well on the charts, with GE tacking on more than 24% since hitting an annual low of $18.02 on June 5. More recently, the Dow component has found a solid foothold atop its 50-week moving average (currently located near $20.68).

In light of this formidable technical showing, as well as the withstanding trend in the options pits, today's rush toward puts could simply be shareholders picking up protection against any additional downside over the next few months. As mentioned, the stock is following the broad market lower today. However, with GE's Relative Strength Index (RSI) docked at 69 -- right on the precipice of overbought territory -- today's consolidation may have been in the cards.


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