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U.S. stock futures are marching higher this morning in an effort to end this week's rally on a bullish note. Chart watchers continued to eye the critical resistance zone at $2,820 on the S&P 500 to see if the current breakout attempt will succeed. A successful breach will set the stage for an eventual retest of the record high at $2,940.91.
Ahead of the bell, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.39% and S&P 500 futures are higher by 0.36%. Nasdaq-100 futures have added 0.52%.
In the options pits, the margin between call and put activity narrowed even as overall volume nestled near average levels. Specifically, about 17.8 million calls and 16.1 million puts changed hands on the session.
The uptick in put trading ended the extreme low readings in the CBOE single-session equity put/call volume ratio. It rocketed back to the middle of its range at 0.65. Meanwhile, the 10-day moving average held steady at 0.65.
Options traders descended on social media stocks. Snap (NYSE: SNAP ) soared on an upgrade from BTIG Research. Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) fell back after a negative report from the New York Times. Finally, Twitter (NASDAQ: TWTR ) remains rangebound but saw an uptick in call trading.
Let's take a closer look:
The budding recovery in SNAP stock went into overdrive on Thursday thanks to an upgrade by BTIG research analyst, Rich Greenfield.
By day's end, giddy investors bid shares of the Snapchat creator 12.24% higher. The participation was widespread with 80.9 million shares changing hands on the session.
Mr. Greenfield lifted his firm's rating from "neutral" to "buy" and gave a price target of $15. That's roughly 33% higher even after yesterday's pole vault.
Thanks for a better-than-expected earnings announcement in early-February, SNAP was already tracking higher. Thursday's jump cleared resistance sending the stock to a new seven-month high. The 20-day and 50-day moving averages are rising bullishly beneath, but SNAP has also pushed well above the 200-day moving average. That places it deep into bullish territory for the first time in over a year.
Traders took to the options market to express their enthusiasm. Total activity ramped to 454% of the average daily volume, with 394,347 total contracts traded. Calls accounted for 74% of the sum.
Implied volatility jumped to 50% or the 21st percentile of its one-year range. Premiums are pricing in daily moves of 36 cents, or 3.2%.
Facebook shares gapped lower out of the gate, but sellers failed to capitalize on their early lead. Ultimately, FB stock ended with doji candle signaling a stalemate between bulls and bears.
The culprit for Thursday's down-gap could have been a New York Times report that revealed, "Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook struck with some of the world's largest technology companies…"
Despite the slight step back, the stock remains above all its major moving averages. Until support zones give way, I see little reason for bearish forecasts.
On the options trading front, calls outpaced puts by a modest margin. Activity saw a subtle uptick to 136% of the average daily volume, with 288,582 total contracts traded. Calls accounted for 54% of the day's take.
Implied volatility rose on the day but remains low at 23%. That places it at the 22nd percentile of its one-year range. Currently, premiums are baking in daily moves of $2.46 or 1.4%.
Twitter stock remains in technical no man's land, but that didn't prevent traders from jockeying for positions in the options market. Enough so, that the blue bird was the seventh most active stock in the derivatives market. With market-moving news nonexistent, I'm chalking its appearance up to, dare I say it, randomness.
Nonetheless, it does give us an opportunity to re-assess the critical price levels to pay attention to. Since gapping lower on earnings last month, TWTR has found a new rangebound home between $32.10 and $29.40. A break of either level should signal the direction of the stock's next move. Until then, I suggest watching the day-to-day action from the sidelines.
On the options trading front, calls won the day. Activity increased modestly to 146% of the average daily volume, with 117,218 total contracts traded. 53% of the total originated with calls.
At 29%, implied volatility is officially dead. It lies at the second percentile of its one-year range and is only pricing in daily moves of 57 cents, or 1.8%. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
As of this writing, Tyler Craig didn't hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Check out his recently releasedBear Market Survival Guideto learn how to defend your portfolio against market volatility.
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