Options Traders Eye Post-Earnings Highs for American Express, Visa Stocks

One AXP options trader may be rolling up her bullish front month bet

Karee Venema
Jul 19, 2017 at 1:46 PM
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Earnings season has kicked into high gear. While it's been lackluster showing from financial firms -- Morgan Stanley notwithstanding -- credit card giants American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) and Visa Inc (NYSE:V) are on deck, with the former slated to report tonight, and the latter's results due tomorrow evening. Ahead of the events, shares of AXP and V are fresh off new highs -- and options traders are betting on even more post-earnings upside for the Dow stocks.

AXP Stock Gapped Higher After a Late-April Earnings Beat

American Express shares hit $85.90 earlier -- their highest perch since January 2015 -- but were last seen trading down 0.1% at $85.45. More broadly, the shares have added 13% since successfully testing familiar support at $76 in late May -- a level that also served as a springboard for AXP stock during its late-April earnings-induced bull gap.

Specifically, the security added 5.9% in the session after American Express reported an earnings beat. However, this positive earnings reaction has been a rarity for AXP in the past eight quarters, with the shares ending lower in the session subsequent to reporting five times. On average, the security has moved 4.7%, regardless of direction -- matching what the options market is pricing in for tomorrow's trading.

Today, it's possible one options trader is rolling up her short-term bullish bet, expecting AXP to stage another post-earnings breakout. Similar-sized blocks changed hands earlier at the July 90 and 91 calls, with the higher-strike marked "opening" at Trade-Alert. If this is the case, the speculator expects the shares to rally north of $91 by this Friday's close, when front-month options expire.

V Stock Hit an All-Time Peak Ahead of Earnings

Visa shares are trading up 0.4% at $98, fresh off a record high of $98.18. The equity is no stranger to impressive price action, having tacked on 25.6% in 2017 atop support from its 40-day moving average -- making it one of the best Dow stocks to own during this period, right behind Boeing, Apple, and McDonald's.

Visa stock's earnings reactions have been mixed, with the shares ending higher in the session subsequent to reporting four times in the last eight quarters, and settling flat in April. While V shares have averaged a single-session post-earnings move of 3% over this period, the options market is pricing in a bigger 4.2% swing this time around.

Call volume has picked up ahead of earnings, too, with nearly 31,000 Visa calls traded so far today, almost three times what's typically seen. The July 100 call is most active, with 5,843 contracts traded. Data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE) confirms some buy-to-open activity here, meaning options traders are betting on Visa taking its inaugural trek above the century mark by week's end. 

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