Apple, U.S. Steel Stocks See Surging Weekly Options Volume

Call buying has been popular on United States Steel shares in recent weeks, despite their long-term slump

by Karee Venema |

Published on Jun 19, 2017 at 12:27 PM
Updated on Jun 19, 2017 at 12:33 PM

The 20 stocks listed in the table below have attracted the highest weekly options volume during the past 10 trading days. Stocks highlighted are new to the list since the last time the study was run, and data is courtesy of Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White. Two names of notable interest are FAANG stock Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and steel producer United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X). Here's a closer look at how options traders have been positioning themselves on shares of AAPL and X.

most active weekly stock options june 19

Apple Options Traders Bet On a Bigger Bounce

In the last 10 trading sessions, 686,328 calls and 372,221 puts have traded on Apple stock, second only to Yahoo in terms of total options volume. This impressive options trading has come amid a sharp sell-off in tech stocks, with Apple shares shedding 8.4% from their June 7 close at $155.37 to last Friday's settlement at $142.27. However, a price-target hike to $180 from $171 at Maxim -- which cited upbeat numbers on iPhone demand out of China -- has the stock trading up 2.6% today at $146.04, on track for its biggest one-day percentage gain since Feb. 1.

Among weekly options that have yet to expire, the weekly 6/23 157.50-strike call has seen the highest volume, with nearly 39,800 contracts traded over this two-week time frame. Data from both the major options exchanges and Trade-Alert points to a mix of buy- and sell-to-open activity. Those initiating long calls expect AAPL stock to bounce back above $157.50 -- and into record-high territory -- by this Friday's close, when the weekly contracts expire, while those writing the calls to open are betting on the strike to serve as a short-term ceiling.

Today, the weekly 6/23 145-strike call is Apple's most active option, with 16,437 contracts traded so far. It looks as if options traders are purchasing new positions here, eyeing a bigger rebound for AAPL shares through this Friday's close.

Call Buyers Pounce on X Stock

Steel stocks are getting a boost today, after Longbow Research waxed optimistic on several names, citing expectations for a favorable outcome to the Trump administration's national security probe into the sector. For U.S. Steel, this meant an upgrade to "buy" from "neutral" and a $30 price target. At last check, X shares were up 3.8% at $20.93, but remain well below their Feb. 21 two-year high of $41.83.

Despite these long-term losses, X call options are crossing at two times the average intraday pace today, with the July 22 strike receiving notable attention. This is due to a 10,000 contract block that Trade-Alert indicates was bought to open earlier to possibly replace expired June 22 options, and appears to be tied to stock.

Call buyers on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) have been more active than usual in recent weeks, though, per X's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 3.01 -- in the 95th annual percentile. The weekly 6/23 21.50-, 22-, and 24-strike calls have seen some of the largest increases in open interest in the last two weeks, with 27,259 contracts collectively added. Data indicates buy-to-open activity, meaning options traders were anticipating a big move higher for X stock by this Friday's close.

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