Options Bulls Pounce as Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VNDA) Gaps Higher

Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:VNDA) stock volume is at a 52-week peak, while options are crossing at eight times the average pace

by Karee Venema

Published on Aug 25, 2016 at 1:45 PM

Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:VNDA) is flying today -- up 18% at $13.85 -- and stock volume is at a 52-week peak. While no apparent news seems to be moving the shares, today's upside could partially be due to short sellers scrambling to cover, after VNDA notched a fresh 12-month peak of $15.24 earlier. Regardless, options are crossing at eight times what's typically seen at this point in the day -- and with call volume docked in the 99th annual percentile, a number of traders are betting on even more upside for VNDA stock in the near term.

Specifically, call options have the lead over put options by a more than 15-to-1 ratio. Most active are VNDA's September 11 and 12 call, as well as the October 15 call. It seems safe to assume new positions are being purchased, meaning the call buyers expect VNDA to settle north of the respective strikes at options expiration. Even if the calls finish out of the money (OOTM), though, the most the options buyers stand to lose is the initial premium paid.

More broadly speaking, traders are more call-heavy than usual among options set to expire in three months or less, per VNDA's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.27. Drilling down, the November 13 call is home to peak open interest among all VNDA positions, with 4,833 contracts in residence. According to Trade-Alert, it looks like the bulk of this activity was a result of speculators buying to open new positions on Aug. 10, when VNDA stock was trading in the $12.15-$12.60 range.

As touched upon, though, the equity is heavily shorted, and at VNDA's average daily pace of trading, it would take almost a full week to cover the 2.7 million shares that are sold short. In light of this, it's possible some of the recent call buying -- particularly at OOTM strikes -- is a result of short sellers hedging their bearish bets against any upside risk.

On the charts, today's positive price action is just more of the same for the stock. Since bottoming at a two-year low of $6.91 in mid-February, shares of Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:VNDA) have doubled.

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