Option investors on Wednesday appeared to be taking bullish positions in IBM
Traders exchanged about 97,000 call options in International Business Machines Corp, nearly six times the average daily turnover and three times more than its put options, according to option analytics firm Trade Alert.
Investors are likely taking positions on hopes IBM can follow Intel's lead and post strong first-quarter earnings, said WhatsTrading.com option strategist Frederic Ruffy.
Intel Corp reported a 44 percent surge in first-quarter revenue late on Tuesday and gave a forecast for the current quarter that topped Wall Street estimates.
IBM is due to report quarterly results on Monday after the closing bell.
Wall Street on average expects IBM earnings of $1.93 per share compared with $1.70 in the year-ago quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Investors hope that the Intel spillover and positive news from their earnings and earnings call will be the same for IBM, TD Ameritrade chief derivatives strategist Joe Kinahan said.
Kinahan noted speculators bought calls, granting investors the right to buy IBM shares at $150 apiece by July and October expirations.
IBM shares closed at $131.25 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
Jud Pyle, chief investment strategist at Options News Network, a division of option marketing firm PEAK6 Investments in Chicago, also noticed the July $150 calls attracted a lot of activity, notably before noon.
According to Reuters data, 31,093 contracts traded in the July $150 call strike against the number of existing positions held by investors of 2,732. The calls fetched 32 cents per contract at the close.
It's a cheap levered bet, meaning that a small percentage increase in the shares might have a big percentage increase in the options, Pyle said.
Pyle said strength in IBM is a function of the fact that corporate PC spending was up.
He also saw a bargain: IBM trades for less than 11 times estimated earnings, versus the 13.88 times of the S&P 500 index. The stock is up only 26 percent in the last 52 weeks versus the S&P 500 which is up 40 percent.
People are waking up to the idea that this stock is too cheap, Pyle added. At that valuation, anything that makes it look like their earnings could grow faster than expected will be greeted with a rally in the shares.
On the New York Stock Exchange, IBM shares closed up 1.7 percent to $131.25 on Wednesday, while on the Nasdaq, Intel shares advanced 3.3 percent to $23.52.
(Additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)