Heavy Option Activity on Two Interesting Stocks

01/04/2011 12:03 am EST


Elizabeth Harrow

Director of Digital Content, Schaeffer's Investment Research, Inc.

Speculators are placing their bets on The Blackstone Group LP (BX) and National Bank of Greece (NBG), with option volume accelerating beyond the norm for both stocks. Activity has ramped up across the board on BX, while NBG has attracted the attention of call players.

Both calls and puts are unusually active on BX, with roughly 7,400 calls and 5,500 puts changing hands so far Monday. This flurry of activity represents about 2.4 times BX's average daily option volume.

Yesterday's most active strikes were BX's February 16 call and the February 13 put, which both saw more than 5,000 contracts trade by early afternoon. Taking a closer look at the action at these two strikes, it looks like one trader opened a bullishly biased spread by purchasing the February 16 calls and selling the February 13 puts.

With BX hovering just shy of $15, both of these options are out of the money. The stock has surged more than 4% today, capitalizing on support at its ten- and 20-day moving averages to rise above short-term pressure in the $14.50 region.

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Meanwhile, calls are clearly the options of choice on NBG. Call volume has ramped up to eight times the expected level, with 2,112 contracts changing hands so far. By contrast, only 14 puts have been exchanged. The center of attention is NBG's May 2 call, where 2,040 contracts have traded, 62% at the ask price, suggesting they were likely purchased.

NBG is fractionally higher to trade at $1.69, but the stock continues to struggle beneath pressure at the $1.70 level. This troublesome technical hurdle has capped NBG's rally attempts since Dec. 23.

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By Elizabeth Harrow, contributor, Schaeffer’s Trading Floor Blog

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