Nike Stock Option's Implied Volatility Spikes Ahead of Earnings

Nike will report earnings after the close on Tuesday, Sept. 26

Karee Venema
Sep 25, 2017 at 12:06 PM
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It's the tail end of earnings season, but there are still a handful of high-profile names left to report. Athletic apparel retailer Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE), for instance, is scheduled to release its quarterly results after tomorrow's close. Today, NKE call options are trading at an accelerated clip, and it looks like one trader may be hoping to capitalize on inflated implied volatility levels ahead of earnings.

At last check, roughly 13,000 calls had changed hands on Nike -- two times what's typically seen at this point in the day. While the January 2018 50-strike call is most active, it looks like the action here may be tied to stock. The October 52.50 call has also seen notable activity, due to a 2,000-contract block that is possibly being sold to close. 

While it's not entirely clear if this is the case, the trader could be hoping to maximize the premium collected for the option, considering the Dow stock's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility is docked at 30% -- a new 12-month high. In other words, elevated volatility expectations are being priced into NKE's short-term options, making it an ideal time to sell premium versus buy it.

More broadly speaking, options traders have targeted the October 55 and 60 calls in the front-month series, with 22,328 contracts and 21,492 contracts outstanding, respectively. It looks like there's been a mix of buy- and sell-to-open activity here in recent months. Those buying to open the calls expect NKE to settle above the strikes at the close on Friday, Oct. 20 -- when the options expire -- while those selling to open the calls expect the strikes to serve as a short-term ceiling.

This mixed sentiment is seen outside of the options pits, as well. Though short interest jumped 7.08% in the most recent reporting period to 26 million shares, this still only represents 2% of NKE's available float. Meanwhile, 14 analysts maintain a "buy" or better rating on Nike, compared to 15 brokerages that carry a "hold" or worse recommendation.

Looking back on the past eight quarters gives no clear direction on Nike stock's history of post-earnings price action, with the shares closing higher in the session subsequent to reporting exactly four times. And while the stock surged 11% last July, it plunged 7.1% in March. On average, NKE moves 5.2% the day after reporting, regardless of direction. This time around, however, the options market is pricing in a loftier 8.6% swing.

Based on Nike's current perch at $53.19, a move of such magnitude would either bring the stock up to $57.76 or down to $48.62. The former would mean a rally to levels not seen since before a mid-August bear gap, while the latter represents a two-year low.  Longer term, NKE stock is maintaining a 4.8% year-to-date lead.

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