USO Pop Draws Fresh Batch of Options Bulls

USO options traders may be closing out their in-the-money calls

Nov 6, 2017 at 1:40 PM
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Crude oil prices are surging today, with the December-dated futures contract up 2.5% at $57.01 per barrel -- a two-year high -- following several high-profile arrests in Saudi Arabia. Against this backdrop, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is 2.6% higher to trade at $11.47, and options traders are blasting the energy shares to bet on even more upside.

By the numbers, 103,017 calls and 65,244 puts have changed hands on USO so far. This is nearly three times what's typically seen at this point in the day, and volume is pacing in the 91st annual percentile.

The January 2018 11-strike call is most active with 25,786 contracts traded, and it looks like traders may be liquidating positions here. This option was one of USO's most heavily populated strikes heading into today's trading, and data from Trade-Alert indicates new contracts were bought in late September for around $0.45-$0.47 apiece. At last check, the bid price for these calls was $0.74.

Elsewhere, buy-to-open activity has been detected at the weekly 11/24 11.50-strike call. If this is the case, speculators are betting on USO making a decisive move north of $11.50 by expiration at the close on Friday, Nov. 24 -- just ahead of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Nov. 30 meeting.

Technically, today's pop just highlights the energy fund's recent momentum. Since hitting $8.65 last June -- its lowest point since February 2016 -- USO has added nearly 33%. Plus, the shares are now trading at their loftiest peak since early March.

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