2 Gold ETFs Bombarded by Options Traders

The Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) and Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bulls 3X Shares (NUGT) have broken out to the upside once again

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Apr 19, 2016 at 3:04 PM

Precious metal stocks have been breaking out in what's been a banner day for the commodities and mining sectors. Gold stocks have certainly been no exception, as evidenced by huge gains for the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) and Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bulls 3X Shares (NUGT). What's more, options traders have been enticed by the upward momentum, with intraday volume humming along at a faster-than-usual clip for both gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Drilling into the action, GDX has soared 5.5% to trade at $23.39, and earlier hit an annual high of $23.44. Puts are running at more than double the expected intraday clip, and handily outstripping calls. The May 20 put is the most active strike, and it looks like one trader bought to open a block of 20,000 contracts just before noon for $0.23 each -- resulting in an initial cash outlay of $460,000 (premium paid * number of contracts * 100 shares per contract). By purchasing these puts, the options player is counting on GDX to retreat below the round $20 level by front-month expiration, at the close on Friday, May  20 -- or risk losing the entire premium paid.

Meanwhile, NUGT has jumped 16% to trade at $90.45, and its calls are crossing the tape at triple the average intraday rate. In the lead is the weekly 4/22 95 strike. It appears traders are selling to open these out-of-the-money call options, expecting the ETF's upward movement to peter out south of $95 by this Friday's close, when the weekly series expires.

On the other hand, buy-to-open activity is detected at the weekly 4/22 90- and 4/29 110-strike calls. By purchasing these calls, options traders foresee NUGT toppling the strikes by the respective weekly expiration dates, at the end of this week and next.

Based on price action alone, it's not surprising to see bullish betting on the gold ETFs, as they've been crushing it in 2016. Year-to-date, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) has rocketed 70% higher, while the Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bulls 3X Shares (NUGT) has nearly quadrupled in value.

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