U.S. stock futures are trading higher this morning, as Wall Street goes bargain hunting in the wake of last week’s selloff. Traders are still eyeing geopolitical concerns, however, as this week’s U.S./South Korean military exercises on the Korean Peninsula could draw a response from North Korea. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s central bank symposium begins on Thursday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and traders will be keeping a close eye on the event for tips on monetary policy.
Against this backdrop, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures are up 0.28%, Nasdaq-100 futures have added 0.5% and S&P 500 futures have risen 0.25%.
On the options front, volume once again trailed off on Monday, with only about 13.9 million calls and 13.4 million puts crossing the tape. On the CBOE, the single-session equity put/call volume ratio plunged to a one-month low of 0.57, pulling the 10-day moving average down a notch to 0.74.
Diving into Monday’s options activity, attention was once again on Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) pledge to spend $1 billion on new streaming content, with analysts setting their sights on Spotify. Elsewhere, Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) was hit with a tidal wave of put volume on Monday in what appears to be a rather large bearish bet on the stock. Finally, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) just can’t shake the specter of Wal-Mart Stores Inc (NYSE:WMT), even when it comes to inflation.
Apple Inc. (AAPL)
Apple watchers have a new narrative for the company’s pledge to spend $1 billion on new content next year. Instead of targeting Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) or Hulu, or even Amazon, Apple analysts say the company is looking to take market share back from streaming music leader Spotify.
RBC analysts said the goal was more feasible than targeting Netflix, and Apple still has a bone to pick with Spotify, which has about 50 million paying subscribers, compared to just 27 million Apple music subs.
Turning to options activity, AAPL speculators appeared a bit more bullish on Monday compared to the past week. Volume topped 349,000 contracts, but was just shy of half of Apple’s daily average volume. Calls, however, snapped up an above average 65% of the day’s take.
Looking out to next month, the September put/call open interest ratio appears to be discounting an iPhone 8 launch, with the reading plummeting to 0.52 from readings north of 0.80 less than a month ago.
Starbucks Corporation (SBUX)
The most notable thing about Starbucks recently is the stock’s nearly 18% plunge within the past three months. SBUX stock suffered a major setback last month when the shares plunged in the wake of a poor quarterly earnings report. Now, SBUX is trading near multimonth lows and is on the verge of breaching key technical support in the $50 region.
Options traders appear to be anticipating the worst for SBUX. Volume on Monday rose to more than 201,000 contracts, or nearly four times Starbucks’ daily average. What’s more, puts gobbled up 91% of the day’s take … and it appears that one trader/institution/etc. Was responsible for the bulk of that put activity.
According to Trade-Alert.com, several large blocks ranging from 7,500 contracts to 37,000 contracts traded on the January 2018 $35 and $40 strike puts — and all were marked spread. A closer look reveals the $40 puts were bought and the $35 puts were sold, resulting in a rather large January 2018 $35/$40 vertical bear put spread on SBUX stock. In short, this traders is looking for SBUX to fall more 25% by January, putting the coffee maker at levels not seen since 2014.
Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN)
Amazon doesn’t have time to worry about the rising threat from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA), the company has its hands full battling Walmart stateside.
President Donald Trump recently blamed Amazon for much of the U.S.’s economic woes, and analysts have hinted that the company could be responsible for keeping inflation unnaturally low in the states. However, analysts at Capital Economics put the situation in perspective, noting that fact the online sales still account for less than 9% of all the U.S. retail market, and that despite its size, Amazon still pales in comparison to Walmart.
How’s that for a backhanded slight?
What’s more, Amazon options traders have been nervous for some time, with AMZN stock plunging from its $1,000-plus perch just last month. Volume on Monday reflected that trepidation, with calls only garnering 52% of the 98,000 contracts traded on AMZN yesterday. The short-term outlook is even more bearish, with AMZN’s September put/call OI ratio rising to 1.16, as puts are once again outnumbering calls among front-month options.
As of this writing, Joseph Hargett did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.