Call Buyers Blitz iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) Amid 'Brexit' Uncertainty

iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) call volume has been picking up speed

by Karee Venema

Published on Jun 16, 2016 at 2:44 PM

As anxiety toward next week's "Brexit" vote builds, traders are flocking to safe-haven assets, such as bonds and gold. In fact, as the 10-year Treasury yield sinks to levels not seen in nearly four years, the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) is up 0.3% at $136.25 -- and fresh off a new annual high of $137.56. Against this backdrop, call players are piling into TLT's options pits, eyeing more upside for the exchange-traded fund (ETF).

Taking a quick step back, roughly 156,000 TLT calls have changed hands thus far -- six times the average intraday pace, and in the 99th annual percentile. According to Trade-Alert, it looks like long call spreads are being initiated with TLT's December 142 and 147 strikes, as well as the December 143 and 148 calls. If this is the case, the respective speculators are setting an upside target for TLT over the next six months, and the sold calls merely offset the cost of the purchased calls.

More broadly speaking, call buying has been a growing trend in TLT's options pits recently. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the ETF's 10-day call/put volume ratio has jumped to 0.99 from 0.71 over the past week, and now ranks in the 65th annual percentile.

Drilling down on the soon-to-be front-month series, peak call open interest of 11,214 contracts is found at TLT's July 138 call -- with 3,410 contracts added in the last five sessions, and more than 11,200 contracts now in residence. This -- along with almost 11,800 calls in residence at TLT's June 138 strike -- could create near-term headwinds for the shares, as the hedges related to these bets unwind ahead of their respective expiration dates.

What's more, resistance in this area could be reinforced near $138.50, which is home to TLT's January 2015 all-time high. Looking at a more recent chart reveals TLT's quick ascent in recent months. In fact, since hitting its most recent low of $127.12 in mid-April, the ETF has powered 7.3% higher.

Amid this recent surge, TLT powered through the $130-$135 range, a neighborhood that has been congested since June 2012. This could serve as a foothold for the shares, in the event of a reversal. Below that, iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) would potentially find near-term support at $125 -- home to peak put open interest of 30,653 contracts at the July 125 strike. In fact, this deep out-of-the-money strike is TLT's top open interest position.

TLT weekly chart June 16

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