Applied Materials, Inc. (AMAT) Option Trends Signal Pre-Earnings Optimism

Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT) options buyers and analysts are betting on even higher highs after earnings

by Andrea Kramer

Published on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:40 PM

Semiconductor stock Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT) is among the top broad-market standouts of 2016, according to recent relative-strength data from Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White. The stock has almost doubled since its August 2015 lows, and touched a 14-year high of $27.75 earlier this week. What's more, while some red-hot semiconductor stocks could be ripe for a pullback, it looks like options buyers and analysts are betting on even higher highs for AMAT after tomorrow's earnings release.

On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), AMAT has racked up a 10-day call/put volume ratio of 9.08, indicating that traders have bought to open more than nine calls for every put during the past two weeks. This ratio is higher than 86% of all others from the past year, underscoring the healthier-than-usual appetite for bullish bets of late.

AMAT's short-term options remain attractively priced, too, from a historical volatility perspective. The equity's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 32% is lower than 75% of the past year's worth of readings. Meanwhile, the stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Scorecard (SVS) sits at a lofty 90, indicating AMAT has tended to make outsized moves on the charts during the past year, relative to what the options market has priced in -- an attractive argument for premium buyers.

However, the stock's front-month gamma-weighted Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) is docked at just 0.27, indicating potential short-term, options-related resistance via overhead calls. In fact, the overhead 28 strike is home to peak call open interest in the soon-to-expire August series, with nearly 11,000 contracts in residence. The $28 region is also about four times' AMAT's 2008 lows, and represents a roughly 50% year-to-date gain for the shares.

Historically, Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT) has moved higher in the session after earnings in each of the past three quarters, jumping 13.8% after its mid-May earnings release. Ahead of tomorrow's event, RBC yesterday upped its price target to that key $28 level from $26, and 14 out of 17 analysts maintain "buy" or better ratings.

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