3 Huge Options Bets On Gold Stocks

Gold names like the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) ETF, and stocks Barrick Gold Corporation (USA) (ABX), and IAMGOLD Corp (USA) (IAG) have seen notable options activity

Feb 8, 2017 at 2:19 PM
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The increasing political uncertainty of late has been a boon for gold futures, which are on pace for a fifth straight gain, and are flirting with three-month highs. At last check, March-dated gold was 0.7% higher at $1,244.10 an ounce. Further, the latest Commitment of Traders (CoT) data indicates that after nine straight weeks of dumping gold, large speculators have accumulated long positions for four consecutive weeks. Against this backdrop, gold stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have flourished of late, and options traders today are placing big bets on a handful of shares: the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD)Barrick Gold Corporation (USA) (NYSE:ABX), and IAMGOLD Corp (USA) (NYSE:IAG).

GLD Options Bull Pays $795,000

GLD is up 0.8% today, and is trading in territory not charted since just after the U.S. presidential election. The ETF has rallied roughly 10.7% since its mid-December annual low of $107, and was last seen at $118.40. Further, GLD recently broke north of congestion in the $115-$116 area, which marks a 38.2% Fibonacci retracement of its plunge in the second half of 2016.

In the options pits, GLD calls are crossing at twice the average intraday pace, with 146,000 contracts exchanged. Paling in comparison, just 35,000 GLD puts have traded so far. Much of the action is attributable to large spreads, with the International Securities Exchange (ISE) confirming the initiation of a bull call spread in the December 2017 series. Specifically, it appears the trader bought to open 7,500 GLD December 140 calls, and reduced the cost of entry -- and maximum risk -- by simultaneously selling to open an equal amount of December 155 calls.

The spread was established for a net debit of $1.06 per pair of calls, or roughly $795,000 total ($1.06 x 7,500 contracts x 100 shares per contract), which represents the most the speculator can lose. In order to profit, the trader needs GLD shares to rally north of $145.06 (bought strike plus net debit) -- about 23% from curent levels -- by December options expiration, though the sold calls limit profit potential on a move above $155.

ABX Attracts $1.6 Million Bet

ABX was last seen 1% higher at $19.52, and has rocketed 41.4% since its own mid-December lows. The stock's near-term options are attractively priced right now, historically speaking, as its Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 41% is just 6 percentage points from an annual low. Likewise, ABX sports a Schaeffer's Volatility Scorecard (SVS) of 94, indicating the shares have exceeded options traders' volatility expectations during the past year.

Today, ABX calls are crossing at 1.5 times the average intraday rate, with more than 26,000 traded. For comparison, fewer than 8,000 ABX puts have exchanged. Most of the action stems from a massive long-term bullish bet, with the trader buying to open nearly 10,500 January 2019 35-strike calls for $1.54 apiece, or about $1.6 million. The investor will make money if ABX nearly doubles in the next couple of years, with breakeven at $36.54 (strike plus premium paid).

IAG Options Trader Eyes Extended Rebound

IAG has rallied 3% to trade at $5.09, and just touched its highest point since August. The shares have surged more than 61% since their mid-December nadir, and options traders today are betting on more upside. What's more, IAG's near-term options are attractive right now, with an SVI in the 9th percentile of its annual range, and a lofty SVS of 78.

IAG calls are crossing at four times the typical intraday pace, with nearly 9,000 contracts exchanged -- compared to a meager 272 puts. A block of 7,001 March 4 calls traded earlier today, and assuming they were bought to open, suggests the speculator paid more than $847,000, and profit will increase the higher IAG rallies north of $5.21 (strike plus $1.21 premium paid) over the next several weeks.

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