BlackBerry Options Volume Explodes Ahead of Earnings

BlackBerry will report fourth-quarter earnings ahead of tomorrow's open

by Karee Venema

Published on Mar 30, 2017 at 2:43 PM
Updated on Mar 30, 2017 at 2:45 PM

Options traders are scrambling to place bets on BlackBerry Ltd (NYSE:BBRY) ahead of the smartphone maker's turn in the earnings confessional tomorrow morning. At last check, more than 35,200 options had traded on BBRY stock, nearly nine times what's typically seen at this point in the day -- and volume is on track to settle in the 95th annual percentile. Diving even deeper, 22,600 calls and 12,600 puts are on the tape, with the majority of the action centered on weekly options that expire at tomorrow's close. Meanwhile, BBRY's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility has jumped 4.4% to 39% -- in the 80th percentile of its 12-month range.

Specifically, the weekly 3/31 7-strike call is most active, with roughly 5,000 contracts traded. It seems safe to say new positions are being purchased here, meaning call buyers expect BBRY to break out above $7 by tomorrow night's close, when the weekly series expires. Even more optimistic options traders appear to be initiating new long positions at the weekly 3/31 7.50-strike call. 

Considering BBRY has spent very little time north of $7.50 this year -- tiptoeing north of here in intraday trading just once, on Feb. 21 -- it's possible those buying to open the weekly calls are actually short sellers hedging against a post-earnings surge. Short interest on BBRY climbed 11.3% in the most recent reporting period, and now accounts for a healthy 10.2% of the stock's available float, or 13.3 times the average daily pace of trading.

Historically speaking, BBRY stock has averaged a single-session post-earnings move of 5.5% over the past eight quarters, regardless of direction. This time around, the options market is pricing in a more substantial 9.7% swing. Looking at the charts, the stock's current trend is downwards, with BlackBerry Ltd (NYSE:BBRY) shares off 14% from their late-December highs north of $8. Today, BlackBerry stock is trading down 1.3% at $6.92, after Samsung released its Galaxy S8 smartphone.

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