Most Active Weekly Options: Citigroup Inc and Microsoft Corporation

Put buyers have been quick to target blue chips Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)

Sep 21, 2015 at 12:17 PM
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The 20 stocks listed in the table below have attracted the highest total weekly options volume during the past 10 trading days. Names highlighted are new to the list since the last time the study was run, and data is courtesy of Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White. Two notable names are blue chips Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT).

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Financial stocks took a hit last week, after the Federal Reserve chose to stand pat on its current monetary policy. The sector is on the mend today following hawkish statements from a handful of Fed officials -- helping to lead the S&P 500 Index (SPX) higher -- and component C is no exception. The stock is up 0.7% at $50.62, paring its year-to-date deficit to 6.5%.

On the sentiment front, put buyers have been piling into C's options pits at a rapid-fire rate in recent months. In fact, the equity's 50-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) put/call volume ratio of 0.64 ranks higher than all comparable readings taken in the past year. In other words, puts have been bought to open over calls at an annual-high clip.

Today, Citigroup Inc puts are crossing the tape at a slightly accelerated pace, and there appears to be some buy-to-open activity happening at the stock's weekly 9/25 42 and 46.50 strikes. If speculators are indeed initiating new long positions here, the goal is for C to be sitting south of the strikes at week's end, when the series expires. Regardless of where the security closes out the week, though, the most the traders stand to lose is the premium paid.

While MSFT is helping to lead the Dow higher today -- up 1.5% at $44.12 -- the equity's upside is running out of steam near its 32-day moving average. Longer term, the shares are down 11% from their April 30 year-to-date high of $49.54, and hit an annual low of $39.72 on Aug. 24.

Option traders at the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX have been rolling the dice on more downside, and have bought to open 28,632 puts during the past 10 sessions, versus 27,342 calls. What's more, the resultant put/call volume ratio of 1.05 rests just 10 percentage points from a 52-week peak.

While the now-expired September series was popular during the past two weeks, Microsoft Corporation's October series also saw a lot of action. According to the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX, a number of put buyers have targeted the stock's October 41 strike in recent weeks, meaning they expect the shares to close south of $41 on Friday, Oct. 16 -- when front-month options expire. Separately, MSFT has said it's fixing an earlier technical issue with Skype. 


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