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Put volume is accelerated on Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG - 778.32) today, as option traders take notice of the stock's modest pullback. Around 22,000 contracts have crossed the tape, representing a 42% mark-up to the average intraday volume for put options. GOOG's February 775 and 780 puts are two of the more popular strikes, where a collective 4,194 contracts have traded. A healthy portion of the contracts at each strike have gone off at the ask price, implied volatility was last seen higher, and volume is outstripping open interest, suggesting a portion of today's activity is of the buy-to-open variety.
The goal for scooping up the out-of-the-money February 775 puts is for GOOG to finish the week -- when front-month options expire -- south of the $775 mark. More specifically, the contracts are being bought for a volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of $5.21, meaning the stock needs to dip 1.1% to land below $769.79 (strike minus VWAP) by this Friday's close. Meanwhile, breakeven for the in-the-money February 780 puts is $772.36 (strike less VWAP of $7.64), or 0.8% below current levels. The maximum risk for either trade is limited to the initial premium paid.
Today's preference for near-term puts reflects a growing trend in the options pits, as evidenced by GOOG's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR). Since Jan. 22, the stock's SOIR has risen to 0.99 from 0.88, as near-term put open interest jumped 96%. This ratio is now ranked in the 92nd percentile of its annual range, implying short-term speculators have been more put-heavy toward GOOG just 8% of the time within the past year.
Technically, GOOG has been plotting a steady path higher for some time now, with the stock up more than 28% year-over-year. Additionally, a solid bounce off its 200-day moving average in mid-November gave the equity the momentum it needed to rally to a record peak of $786.67 last Friday.
This positive price action has stalled in today's session, though. At last check, the security was trading about 1% lower following news that former CEO Eric Schmidt will be selling 42% of his stake in the company. However, with GOOG's Relative Strength Index (RSI) of 70 wading in overbought waters, a near-term consolidation may have been in the works.