Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) is in focus today, after the financial stalwart fired the latest salvo in the brokerage wars. The company announced commission-free stock, exchange-traded fund (ETF), and options trading for loyalty program members. Bank of America joins Charles Schwab (SCHW) and TD Ameritrade (AMTD), among others, in its attempt to entice traders in the "race to zero." In response to the announcement, BAC options traders are coming out of the woodwork.
With around 90 minutes left in trading today, more than 136,000 Bank of America call options have changed hands -- 1.3 times the average intraday amount. Leading the charge is the weekly 10/25 31-strike call, with more than 25,000 contracts exchanged, and new positions are being opened. The weekly 10/25 31.50-strike call is also prominently featured today, with possible buy-to-open activity detected. Buyers of the calls expect BAC shares to extend today's climb and topple the respect strikes by Friday's close, when the options expire.
Puts have been more popular than usual in recent weeks, though. In the last 10 days, at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Cboe Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), 0.69 puts were bought to open for every call. So, while purchased calls have outpaced puts on an absolute basis, this ratio ranks 3 percentage points from an annual high, indicating the rate of put buying relative to call buying has been quicker than usual. However, much of that may have been due to traders betting bearishly -- or hedging long stock positions -- ahead of Bank of America earnings last week.
Those looking to bet on the bank stock may want to consider options. In light of the post-earnings volatility crush, the equity's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) is currently at 22%, which registers in the 12th percentile of its annual range -- indicating short-term options are attractively priced at the moment, from a historical volatility perspective.
At last check, BAC was up 2.2% to trade at $31.01, on track for its ninth straight win -- a feat not accomplished in nearly a year. This streak has taken the shares just south of their April 29 annual high of $31.17, with the security peaking today at $31.14. Year-to-date, the equity is up 26%, though advances have stalled multiple times in the $31-$31.50 neighborhood.