Call Players Blitz El Pollo Loco Holdings, Inc. (LOCO) Ahead of Earnings

El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:LOCO) will report quarterly earnings after Thursday's close

by Karee Venema

Published on May 12, 2015 at 11:56 AM

El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:LOCO) is slated to take its turn in the earnings confessional Thursday evening, and option traders are loading up on calls ahead of the big event. In fact, calls are trading at 11 times what's typically seen at this point in the day, and are outpacing puts by a 45-to-1 ratio.

Nearly all of the day's call activity has occurred at LOCO's May 28 strike, where 5,667 contracts are on the tape. It seems safe to assume new positions are being purchased -- a theory echoed by Trade-Alert -- as speculators bet on the stock to rally past the strike by Friday's close, when front-month options expire.

Today's call-skewed session is nothing new for a stock that's up almost 40% year-to-date to trade at $27.86. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), traders have bought to open 11.10 calls for each put over the past two weeks.

Echoing this is LOCO's front-month gamma-weighted Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.26, which indicates near-the-money call open interest almost quadruples put open interest among options residing in the May series. In fact, the May 28 strike has been quite popular among option traders, and is currently home to peak front-month call open interest. With 31% of the equity's float sold short, though, some of this recent call buying could be at the hands of shorts hedging against any post-earnings upside.

Over the past seven quarters, El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:LOCO) has moved an average of 3.4% in the session subsequent to reporting. This time around, the options market is pricing in a bigger 7% swing, based on the equity's near-term at-the-money straddle.

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