Are Eli Lilly and Company (LLY) Bulls Playing Buyout Buzz?

Eli Lilly and Co (NYSE:LLY) is moving higher amid M&A speculation

by Josh Selway

Published on May 1, 2015 at 3:10 PM

Eli Lilly and Co (NYSE:LLY) is up 1.9% today to trade at $73.23, with some sites citing unsubstantiated takeover chatter. Options traders are stepping up, with calls crossing at four times the normal intraday volume, outpacing puts by a margin of more than 8-to-1. Leading the way are the weekly 5/1 73- and 73.50-strike calls, which it appears traders are buying to open. Traders are looking for gains above the respective strikes before the contracts expire at today's close. LLY peaked at $73.33 today.

Slightly longer-term bulls are seemingly buying to open the 5/8 73-strike call and the May 75 call. The calls will be in the money if LLY is perched atop the strikes by the options' respective expiration dates of Friday, May 8, and Friday, May 15 -- both of which encompass the company's annual shareholder meeting on Monday.

Looking back, these call-focused traders are commonplace in LLY's options pits. Specifically, the stock's 50-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) call/put volume ratio of 3.02 ranks higher than 87% of readings from the past 12 months, indicating calls have been bought to open over puts at a faster-than-usual rate.

Analysts aren't so sure about the stock, which has outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) during the past two months, and has added roughly 22% during the past year. Of the 12 brokerage firms with coverage on Eli Lilly and Co (NYSE:LLY), six rate it a "hold."

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