Options Traders Blast HACK, Palo Alto Networks After Ransomware Attack

PureFunds ISE Cyber Security ETF shares are fresh off an annual high, while Palo Alto Networks stock is attempting to close north of its March bear-gap high

by Karee Venema

Published on May 15, 2017 at 2:28 PM
Updated on May 15, 2017 at 2:33 PM

A global ransomware attack that reportedly impacted more than 200,000 machines has traders rushing toward cybersecurity stocks today, with roughly 1.9 million shares traded on the PureFunds ISE Cyber Security ETF (HACK) at last check -- easily surpassing the previous 52-week peak of 1.5 million HACK shares, set on Sept. 6. HACK options volume is booming, too, with 1,274 contracts traded so far, compared to an average daily volume of 175.

While HACK is up 3.7% at $30.85 and earlier hit an annual high of $31, it's no surprise to see sector component Palo Alto Networks Inc (NYSE:PANW) trading up, as well. At last check, PANW stock was 3.9% higher at $121.05. Even though the stock could struggle to stage a significant short-term breakout above $121 -- home to its early March bear gap high -- call volume on PANW shares is trading at four times the average intraday rate, with nearly 14,000 contracts on the tape.

Diving deeper, PANW's four most active options are the May 120 and 125 calls and the June 120 and 130 calls, and it's possible new positions are being purchased at each of these short-term strikes. It's a theme that's been echoed across the major options exchanges in recent weeks. The equity's top-heavy 10-day call/put volume ratio of 2.31 at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) -- in the 85th annual percentile, meaning calls have been bought to open relative to puts at a faster-than-usual clip.

If options traders are initiating new positions at the now in-the-money 120 strikes, the goal is for PANW stock to maintain its newfound perch atop $120 through front- and back-month expiration at this Friday's close and the close on Friday, June 16, respectively. The purchase of the 125-strike calls would require PANW shares to move into positive year-to-date territory, based on Palo Alto stock's Dec. 31 close at $125.05. The shares most recently traded north of $130 on Feb. 28.

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