Friday, April 23, 2010


From Pragmatic Capitalist:
A massive put spread comprised of approximately 200,000 put options on the XLF, an exchange-traded fund that corresponds to the price and yield performance of the Financial Select Sector of the S&P 500 Index, indicates investor pessimism is alive and well despite positive first-quarter earnings announcements from a number of large financial firms this week. Bearish plays also dominated activity on the XLF earlier in the week.

Shares of the underlying fund are currently down 1.2% to $16.54 as of 3:10 pm (ET). The pessimistic options player appears to have purchased roughly 100,000 put options at the June $16 strike for an average premium of $0.39 each, marked against the sale of about the same number of puts at the lower June $15 strike for $0.16 apiece. Net premium paid for the spread amounts to $0.23 per contract.

The massive size of the transaction suggests the trade was initiated by an investor seeking downside protection on sizeable underlying stock positions in either the XLF itself, related holdings of the fund, or perhaps both, through June expiration. Suppose the investor is building up insurance on a large position in the underlying shares of the XLF. In this scenario, downside protection kicks in should shares of the XLF breach the effective breakeven point on the spread at $15.77 ahead of June expiration. Options players exchanged more than 415,000 option contracts on the XLF as of 3:10 pm (ET), with put options trading more than 3.5 times to each single call option in play today.