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General Motors (GM) Option Traders Predict a Near-Term Pop

Are GM speculators expecting a post-earnings jump?

by 2/12/2013 11:07 AM
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The shares of General Motors Company (NYSE:GM - 28.48) are testing support atop their 10-week moving average, and option traders see a rebound on the automaker's horizon. In early trading, GM has seen about 6,800 call options change hands -- more than five times the number of puts exchanged.

Most popular are the February 30 and March 29 calls, which have seen roughly 3,800 and 1,900 contracts cross the tape. The majority of the calls have traded at the ask price, and implied volatility is trending higher at both strikes, hinting at buy-to-open volume.

Digging deeper, the volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of the front-month calls is $0.10, meaning the buyers will reap a reward if GM conquers the $30.10 level (strike plus VWAP) by Friday's closing bell, when February-dated options expire. This timeframe also encompasses the company's turn in the earnings spotlight on Thursday, Feb. 14, so the buyers could be betting on a post-earnings pop for GM. However, even if GM retreats in the next few sessions, the maximum risk is limited to the initial premium paid for the calls.

Meanwhile, the March 29 call buyers are more conservative, going with a closer-to-the-money strike and allowing more time for their predictions to pan out. As such, they're paying more for the options -- a VWAP of $0.74, to be exact. In this instance, the buyers need GM to conquer the $29.74 level by mid-March. Again, though, even if the stock takes a turn for the worse, the most the traders can lose is the premium paid at initiation.

As alluded to earlier, the shares of GM are lingering just north of their 10-week trendline, which has contained most of the stock's pullbacks since early August. However, peak call open interest in the February series stands at the 29 strike, with more than 27,200 contracts outstanding. This abundance of bullish bets overhead could translate into an options-related speed bump for GM this week.

Weekly Chart of GM since August 2012 With 10-Week Moving Average

Historically, GM has bested Wall Street's bottom-line earnings estimates in three of the past four quarters. This go-round, analysts, on average, are anticipating a per-share profit of 51 cents.


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