RHT – Red Hat, Inc. – Shares of the software company are down 2.5% at $46.67 in the final hour of the trading session, but near-term options activity on the stock suggests investors are hoping for the stock to rally ahead of January expiration. Red Hat’s better-than-expected forecast for fourth-quarter profits of $0.21 to $0.22 a share, released during the company’s third-quarter earnings report after the close of trading yesterday, inspired a plethora of analyst upgrades and hikes in share price targets. Investors expecting shares to rebound in short order took advantage of the decline in premium on out-of-the-money calls, and purchased the majority of some 7,850 contracts exchanged at the January 2011 $48 strike today. It looks like bulls bought approximately 4,000 of the call options for an average premium of $0.87 apiece. Call buyers are prepared to make money should Red Hat’s shares rally 4.7% over the current price of $46.67 to surpass the average breakeven price of $48.87 by January expiration. Following earnings, the overall reading of options implied volatility on the world’s largest distributor of the open-source Linux operating system plunged 27.7% to 29.90% by 3:45pm.
XLF – Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF – The purchase of a massive chunk of March 2011 contract put options on the financials SPDR ETF appears to be the work of a cautiously optimistic options strategist hedging a large position in the underlying shares. Shares in the XLF, an exchange-traded fund designed to track the performance of the Financial Select Sector of the S&P 500 Index, are up 0.90% to stand at $15.95 as of 3:45pm in New York. The investor appears to have established a delta neutral hedge, buying 1,500,000 shares of XLF, and picking up 50,000 protective puts at the March 2011 $15 strike for a premium of $0.39 per contract on a 0.30 delta. It seems the trader is positioning for continued bullish movement in the price of XLF shares, but opting to shell out extra premium as well for downside protection in case the sector does not perform as expected in the first few months of 2011. Options implied volatility on the fund is higher by 5.7% to arrive at 20.88% as of 3:50pm.