Ok, so Intel surpassed expectations in its third-quarter earnings report - anyone who didn't see that coming clearly hasn't followed the company for very long. The problem is that these very strong results were so widely expected. For instance, options speculators loaded up on calls yesterday, resulting in a drop in the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) from 0.58 to 0.57. While this decline may seem insignificant, it is a sign that expectations were quite high heading into last night's report.
With all of Wall Street looking for big numbers out of Intel, it explains why the shares have been unable to breakout above a long-standing region of resistance between the 26.50 and 27 levels. Note that INTC's high of the session is $26.98, just 2 cents shy of the 27 mark. The stock has managed to best the 26.50 region, which is home to peak October call open interest, but the 27.50 level takes these honors in November and beyond. What's more, the potential put support at the 26.50 level (which is home to nearly 130,000 puts in October) dwindles to just 18,000 put contracts in November.
I'm not taking issue with the stock's recent strength, nor its solid earnings report last night. I am however cautioning against potential selling pressure going forward if the shares fail to take out the 27 level in the short to intermediate term. What's more, if the security fails to hold the 26.50 level in today's trading, INTC could find itself pinned to this level in Friday's expiration, only to slip further next week. Currently, the shares are less than 10 cents away from the 26.50 level, placing the stock in a precarious position.