December 15th, 2015

Semiconductor credit spread indicates bearish view

Today’s tickers: SMH, ELAN, FDX, DELL, AN, GE, POT, PCLN & ERIC SMH Semiconductor HOLDRS Trust – The semiconductors ETF has seen shares decline by more than 3.5% to stand at $18.11 today. We noticed one investor who is looking to profit from a near-term pull back in shares, by establishing a credit spread in the April contract. While the open interest at the April 18 strike suggests that there has been bullish activity there recently, we believe the trader we observed today is taking the opposite stance. At the April 20 strike price 25,000 calls were purchased at 46 cents apiece, while at the April 18 strike 25,000 in-the-money calls were sold for 1.36 each. The net credit achieved with this strategy amounts to 90 cents and is safe in the bank if shares remain below $18 by expiration next month. SMH has not traded above $20 since November of 2008, and the stock has reached a line of resistance at around $18. This investor may turn out to have made a wise choice in taking advantage of the richer premium afforded by the in-the-money contracts at the lower strike, and he will look for both the April 18/20 calls to expire worthless in 30 days in order to pocket the 90 cent premium. This bear was not alone in the woods today, as the May contract saw 14,000 puts purchased at the 14 strike price for 24 cents apiece. Super-pessimists are looking for shares to decline below the 52-week low on the stock at $14.51 because profits begin to amass as shares fall beginning at the breakeven share price of $13.76. ELN Elan Corporation PLC – The neuroscience-based biotechnology company has experienced a share price decline of 2% to $5.29. ELN appeared on our ‘hot by options volume’ market scanner after one investor traded a large number of calls in the January 2010 contract. The trader purchased 28,000 calls for 20 cents each at the January 17.5 strike price. Given that shares are light-years away from nearing $17.50, we investigated the open interest of 29,000 at the 17.5 strike. It looks as though this investor sold a good portion of these 28,000 calls short on January 8, 2009 for a premium which ranged between 70 cents and 1.25 per contract when shares were at $9.00. We noted at the time in our commentary that this was part of a three-legged spread. Option…
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