U.S. stock futures are heading higher this morning, as Wall Street awaits a raft of key economic data. Investors will be searching for U.S. economic growth later this morning, as the August ADP employment report and the latest revisions to U.S. second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) are on tap today. Positive data could help overshadow recent market weakness due to Hurricane Harvey and rising tensions with North Korea.
Heading into the open, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures are up 0.07%, S&P 500 futures are nearly flat with a gain of 0.02% and Nasdaq-100 futures have added 0.13%.
Turning to Tuesday's options activity, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A ) exercised its Bank of America Corp (NYSE: BAC ) warrants, banking $12 billion on the deal. Elsewhere, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN ) is the must-have millennial app, according to a recent survey, and United States Steel Corporation (NYSE: X ) rose on projections for steel prices to rise as Houston ports shutdown.
Bank of America Corp (BAC)
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is now the largest Bank of America shareholder. Berkshire exercised its much-discussed BAC warrants , netting the company 700 million BAC shares and a $12 billion paper profit. The news failed to boost BAC stock, with the shares slipping more than half a percent on Tuesday. But, options traders flooded BAC with calls in the wake of Warren's windfall.
Specifically, about 468,000 contracts traded on BAC on Tuesday, nearly doubling the stock's daily average. Furthermore, calls made up 80% of the day's take - also well above average for the stock. The recent rise in call activity has applied pressure to BAC's September put/call open interest ratio, which has fallen in recent weeks to land at 0.63 this morning.
BAC is nearing trendline support at its 200-day moving average, and options traders appear to be betting on a bounce for the shares. A failure here could put BAC stock in bear-market territory, however.
Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN)
A recent comScore survey asked millennials which app on their smartphone was a "must have." Surprisingly, it wasn't Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB ) or Instagram or Alphabet Inc's (NASDAQ: GOOG , NASDAQ: GOOGL ) YouTube … it was Amazon's app. In fact, 35% of respondents said the Amazon app was the one they couldn't live without. Arriving second was Google's Gmail app (30%), followed by Facebook (29%).
But if options traders saw the survey results, they didn't seem all that impressed. Volume on Tuesday arrived just below average at 113,000 contracts. Furthermore, calls made up about 57% of the day's take - again, nothing to write home about. Still, optimism is rising on AMZN, and it's showing up in the stock's options backdrop.
In fact, the September put/call OI ratio has fallen from readings north of 1.10 early in August to its current perch at 1.02 - driven lower as calls are added at a faster pace than puts among near-term options. Given that AMZN stock has fallen about 13% amid this run up in calls, this rising bullish sentiment has bearish implications for the shares as traders try to essentially catch a falling knife.
United States Steel Corporation (X)
One of the unexpected side effects of Hurricane Harvey is the potential for U.S. steel import prices to rise. Analysts at KeyBanc noted that Houston handles 30%-35% of U.S. steel imports, and Harvey has all but shut down the city's ports. KeyBanc was already forecasting a rise of between $15 and $30 a ton for steel prices, due to a recent bump in import prices, but Harvey could exacerbate the problem even further.
Speculation on the news sent X stock skipping 2.6% higher, and options traders were looking to take advantage of the situation. Volume on X rose to more than 80,000 contracts, or roughly 1.5 times the stock's average daily volume. Furthermore, calls made up 66% of the day's take.
X has shown strong price action recently, taking out resistance at $25. But options traders are looking for additional gains, as the September put/call OI ratio has fallen to a perch at 0.50, with calls doubling puts among near-term options.
As of this writing, Joseph Hargett did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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