Despite the Big Drop, Call Options Dominate Yahoo!

24/7 Wall St.

Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) may be down about 7% after its earnings signaled what is still a lack of serious growth in its turnaround strategy. What is interesting is that the options trading community is keeping a more bullish stance regarding Yahoo!'s prospects.

One admission has to be made in options trading, and that is without having the market maker order books it is impossible to fully know if the volume is dominated by buying or selling. That is often not really known until the following day when the new open interest readings can be viewed.

The January 31 expiration weekly options are showing more trading interest in the $36 calls and $37 calls. Both are now considered to be speculative, considering that the 7% drop has shares at $35.55. We have seen more than 11,600 contracts trade in the $36 strike and more than 12,400 contracts trade in the $37 strike.

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On top of those weekly expirations mentioned, another 10,000 contracts or so have traded among the $35.50, $36.50, $37.50, $38 and $38.50 strike prices. Tally all this up and it is close to 3.5 million shares worth of options on a fully leveraged basis. This compares to only about 12,000 of all the actively traded put option contracts.

If you go out to the February expiration, more than 12,000 contracts have traded among the most active call strike prices, versus about 13,000 contracts traded among the active put strike prices. That imbalance is too small to worry about, and the expiration there is out to February 22. The March expirations are more skewed to Call options as well, although it is too small a difference to measure with any observation of value.

Where Yahoo! stock options get real interesting is out in April. That is another earnings month, and likely investors may have more of an idea of what to expect around an Alibaba IPO at that time. Almost 14,000 contracts have traded among the active April call options, versus only about 3,000 of the active put options.

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Even out in the LEAPS, the January 2015 active call strikes have seen more than 3,500 contracts trade, versus a negligible number of put options.

As of 11:30 a.m. EST, this shows an imbalance of the active contracts that is highly in favor of the call options. Some of these are of course selling out of positions, but options traders likely will notice that this is another handy imbalance toward the calls -- the right to buy shares.

Yahoo! shares hit a low of $35.01 on Wednesday morning, after opening at $35.75. The $35.55 share price is up more than 1.5% from the intraday lows, and the options are more skewed toward calls (the right to buy). It seems that the bias in the weeks and months ahead remains to the upside, despite what the one-day drop of about 7% might look like on the surface. At least that is what this take indicates. One last reminder to make is that the direction of trading, in shares or in options, can change multiple times throughout a trading day.

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