Hot Option Plays: Fed Unched.

OptionsXpress
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Cusick’s Corner
I am writing this into today’s Fed number so I will be brief. Unless there is a major shift in policy language or lack of unanimous agreement, the market looks ready to challenge to the upside. In other words, I will be watching to see if dips are being bought or if we just run to resistance of 1300 on the S&Ps, challenge, then roll to the upside. I will have more to say in the After Hours.

Stock market averages have battled back from morning losses and are little changed ahead of the Federal Reserve’s post-meeting statement. After four days of gains, and with little news flow to guide the morning action, the Dow Jones Industrial Average opened with modest losses ahead of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate announcement, which is due today at 12:30pm ET. Economists expect Fed officials to echo the same concerns about the slowing economy and make no changes to rates. Investors will also be looking for information about another round of Quantitative Easing as QE2 comes to an end this month. The day’s stock news is mixed. While FedEx (NYSE:FDX) shares are up 2.7 percent after its profits topped expectations, Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) is suffering a 6 percent post-earnings loss. Meanwhile, crude oil prices added 45 cents to $94.62 following today’s inventory data. Gold gained $11.8 to $1,558.2 an ounce. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is flat and 55 points off session lows. The tech-heavy NASDAQ added .6 points. CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX) lost 1.02 to 17.84. Overall options volume is light, with 3.2 million calls and 2.7 million puts traded through 11:45pm ET.

Bullish Flow
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) call options are busy for a second day. Shares have given up early gains and are now flat at $10.83. Options volume in the bank is 106,000 calls and 41,000 puts. January 2013 calls at the 12.5 strike are the most actives. Volume is approaching 50,000 contracts and the flow includes a morning buyer of 10,000 at $1.30 per contract. The same contract saw heavy trading yesterday as well. Open interest increased by 19,025 to 329,749 contracts. The 12.5 calls are 15.4 percent out-of-the-money and some investors are likely taking positions in the 2013 contract on the view shares of the bank will recover recent loss in the second half of 2011 and through 2012. BAC is down 14 percent since May 3, when the stock closed the day at $12.60 per share.

Bed, Bath and Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY) options are actively traded today. 4,820 calls and 2,470 puts in the name so far. Shares are down 11 cents to $53.95 and July 57.5 calls are the most actives. The contract is 6.6 percent out-of-the-money and expires in three and a half weeks. 1,782 traded vs. 1,510 in existing open interest. July 55 and 60 calls on BBBY are seeing interest as well. The heightened call activity comes ahead of earnings. The retailer is due to release its results after the closing bell today.

Bearish Flow
Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) is trading down $1.91 to $30.10 and options are seeing brisk trading after the software maker reported better-than-expected second quarter earnings and revenues, but then guided estimates lower for the third quarter. Shares are taking a hit and options volume is 3.5X the average daily. 16,000 calls and 17,000 puts have traded in Adobe so far. July 31 calls, which are falling 2.9 percent out-of-the-money, are the most actives. 6,520 traded. Some investor might be liquidating positions on the disappointing news. July 28 puts, July 32 calls, July 33 calls and August 30 puts on Adobe are actively traded as well.

RF Micro Devices (NASDAQ:RFMD) is up 17 cents to $5.82 and options volume is 4.5X the average daily, being driven by increasing volume in August 6 puts. 8,725 contracts traded. The biggest trade is a 4,150 contract block at the 60-cent asking price. The rest of the volume has traded predominantly on the bid and some of the activity might be closing. Open interest in the contract, which is now 18 cents in-the-money, is more than 17,000 and the largest position in the name. Players have been accumulating positions in the contract in recent weeks, possibly bracing for weakness in shares from now through the August expiration, which is in 58 days.

Unusual Volume
Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) options volume is running3.5X the (22-day) average, with 33,000 contracts traded and put volume accounting for 52 percent of the volume.

FedEx (NYSE:FDX) options volume is 3.5X the average daily, with 29,000 contracts traded and call volume representing 69 percent of the activity.

Dollar Thrifty (NYSE:DTG) options volume is running 5.5X the average daily, with 22,000 contracts traded and call volume representing 94 percent of the total volume.

Increasing options activity is also being seen in Tibco Software (NASDAQ:TIBX), Pulte Group (NYSE:PHM), and Jabil Circuit (NYSE:JBL).

Implied Volatility Mover
FedEx (NYSE:FDX) shares are up $2.45 to $91.58 and FDX options are seeing heavy trading after the company delivered a $1.75 per share quarterly profit, which was 2 cents better than Street estimates. The stock is rallying on the news. Today’s options volume of 19,000 calls and 9,500 puts is 3.5X the average daily for the shipping company. Meanwhile, implied volatility is down sharply now that the earnings event risk has passed. IV in FedEx options is down 17 percent to 22.

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