U.S. stock futures are attempting to rebound this morning, as Wall Street struggles with a weakening energy sector plagued by a strong dollar and rising crude oil supplies.
Historically, the Thanksgiving holiday-shortened trading week is a positive for stocks, so look for at least a muted upside this week. Heading into the open, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were leading with a gain of 0.08%, followed by the Nasdaq Composite, up 0.06%, and the S&P 500 Index, up 0.01%.
Option volume remained below average on Friday, but trading was still brisk due to the expiration of November options. Calls regained some composure in the options pits, as the CBOE single-session equity put/call volume ratio dropped to a one-week low of 0.67. The 10-day moving average held at 0.77.
On the equity options front, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) saw call activity rebound following reports of strong subscriber growth from key Chinese mobile partners China Telecom and China Unicom. Elsewhere, Pfizer, Inc. (NYSE:PFE) saw heavy option speculation on expectations that the drug giant would merge with Allergan PLC (NYSE:AGN), and National Bank of Greece (NYSE:NBG) put volume continued to spike after the bank announced a share offer.
Apple Inc. (AAPL)
AAPL stock added 0.44% on Friday and is trading up 0.25% in premarket activity this morning. Apple received a positive report out of China on Friday, after China Telecom and China Unicom released their October subscriber growth figures.
Strong mobile growth in China is key to Apple’s current quarter, as the country has accounted for 23%, 41% and 53% of Apple’s revenue over the past three years, respectively.
Option volume was above average for AAPL on Friday, with November expiration driving quite a bit of activity. Overall, 617,980 contracts changed hands on AAPL, with calls making up 68% of the day’s take. Looking at weekly November 27 series options, the $120 strike will be huge for AAPL this week. Currently, 23,039 call contracts are open at $120, versus 6,124 puts. If the stock can wheedle its way past this technical hurdle amid this week’s holiday shortened week, it could be a boon for AAPL options traders.
Pfizer, Inc. (PFE)
Merger speculation ramped up on PFE stock on Friday. The stock saw record short-term volume exceed 240,000 contracts heading into the weekend, with puts gaining a slight edge at 54% of the take. Currently, the weekly November 27 series overhead $32.50 strike holds peak OI for the series, with 18,351 calls currently in residence. Meanwhile put OI for November tops out at 10,591 contracts at the $33 strike.
Expect another flood of call and put speculation today now that Pfizer announced that it has agreed to a $160 billion merger deal with Allergan. The merger will move Pfizer out of the U.S. in an increasingly popular tax-dodging inversion strategy. The structure of the reverse merger has Ireland-based Allergan essentially buying PFE, allowing Pfizer to move to a country with a lower corporate tax rate.
National Bank of Greece (NBG)
NBG stock has crashed during the past month, with the stock shedding some 76% since the start of November. The shares dropped another 49% on Friday after NBG announced it a new tender offer of ordinary shares priced at 0.02 euros per share. The bank has been in dire straights since October after it and several other Greek banks failed stress tests and revealed a capital shortfall of 14.40 billion euros.
Options traders typically shy away from puts when taking aim at penny stocks due to the limited downside, but NBG has quickly become a put favorite of late. On Friday, some 389,413 contracts traded on NBG, with puts accounting for a whopping 93% of the total take. The vast majority of these put contracts are centered in the December series, where 301,424 contracts reside at the $0.50 strike, with another 181,213 put contracts open at the $1 strike.
As of this writing, Joseph Hargett did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.