Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) Options Bulls Eye a Post-Earnings Breakout

Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) will report earnings after tomorrow's close

by Karee Venema

Published on Aug 16, 2016 at 3:31 PM

Tech firm Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) will take its turn in the earnings confessional after tomorrow's close. Ahead of the event, the Dow stock is down 0.2% at $31.14, but options traders appear to be betting on a post-earnings breakout to levels not seen in more than eight years.

By the numbers, around 54,000 call options have changed hands so far, compared to 28,000 put options. CSCO's September and October 32 calls have received notable attention, and it looks like some of the activity could be of the buy-to-open kind. In other words, traders expect CSCO to rally north of $32 by the time the options expire.

More broadly speaking, today's call-skewed session is just more of the same in CSCO's options pits. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), speculative players have bought to open 1.87 calls for every put over the past 10 sessions. Plus CSCO's gamma-weighted Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.32 suggests near-the-money calls more than triple puts among options expiring in three months or less.

Drilling down, CSCO's August 32 call has seen the biggest rise in open interest over the last two weeks, with 14,608 positions added. According to the major options exchanges, the vast majority of these calls were bought to open. In other words, these traders need CSCO to move north of the strike by front-month options expiration at this Friday's close. As a point of reference, the stock has not explored the north side of $32 since November 2007.

However, the shares have been tearing up the charts since bottoming at an annual low of $22.46 in mid-February, up 39%. Plus, CSCO hit an eight-year high of $31.25 one week ago today. If any one of the 32-strike calls expires out of the money, though, the most the options buyers stand to lose is the initial premium paid.

Meanwhile, the stock could see some volatility in the wake of its quarterly earnings report. Looking back over the past eight quarters, CSCO has averaged a single-session post-earnings swing of 4.6%. This time around, the options market is pricing in a slightly bigger 6.4% move for the shares of Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO).

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