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Sticking with the recent trend, calls have emerged as the options of choice on VMware, Inc. (NYSE:VMW - 78.96) in today's session. Around 8,600 calls have crossed the tape so far, compared to fewer than 1,300 puts. The 77.50 level is in focus, with traders scooping up a collective 4,926 contracts at this in-the-money strike in the February, March, and April-dated series of options. A healthy portion of the contracts at each strike has crossed at the ask price, and volume is easily outstripping open interest, hinting at buy-to-open activity.
Jumping right in... By purchasing the February 77.50 call for a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $2.23, traders need VMW to finish next Friday's session (when front-month options expire) north of the $79.73 mark (strike plus premium paid). Delta for this call is currently perched at 71%, suggesting a more than 2-in-3 chance this option will finish in the money at expiration.
Traders are paying a bit more for the further-dated March 77.50 call, making breakeven here $81.31 (strike plus VWAP of $3.81). Should VMW fail to topple this overhead mark by Friday, March 15 -- when back-month options expire -- the most the speculators have risked is the initial premium paid. With implied volatility at this strike deflated relative to the stock's 40-day historical (realized) volatility (31% vs. 64.5%), traders can rest easy knowing they picked up these bets for a relative bargain.
Meanwhile, option speculators are ponying up an average premium of $5.15 per contract for the stock's April 77.50 calls, meaning these options will become profitable with each step north of $82.65 VMW takes through April expiration. Delta here is currently at 58%, implying that for every dollar VMW gains over the next three months, this call will add $0.58. (Alternatively, for every dollar VMW drops in this same time frame, this call will lose $0.58.)
Technically, VMW has struggled in 2013. In addition to lagging the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by nearly 20 percentage points throughout the past 20 sessions, the stock is staring at a roughly 16% year-to-date deficit.