Morning Stir with Alan Knuckman

Gapping lower at the open, yesterday’s session saw the major markets back to near unchanged territory on a mixed day.  Higher index lows Thursday versus Wednesday were a positive sign to end the trading week.

The broad market S&P 500 SPX added nearly 2 points to 1997 ½ for a .1% gain.

As the epic, year long channel battle continues from $14 to $12, volatility slid little more than .5% with the VIX closing at $12.80 yesterday, after peaking at $13.67 .  VIX options traded 557,000 contracts in line with norms, nearly 70% on the call side.  The September $16 calls and October $18 calls were most active on more than 40,000 lots at each strike.

With Crude Oil marking new 16 month lows, the XLE Energy ETF pushed to its lowest level since May, before rebounding to close positive at $94.98.  XLE options saw a roll down and out, selling the October $95 puts to buy the November $92 puts.  The $92 strike is 3% below, with the XLE index up more than 7% in 2014.

Tech on the other hand lost 2 points, as the NDX Nasdaq 100 index couldn’t quite get back to closing on its highs at just under 4093.

Blackberry blazed up 5% to $10.78 with an acquisition announcement yesterday, as front month September expiration had buy to open activity in the $10 and $10.50 strikes.  59,000 BBRY options traded, with 81% on the call side.

Dow 30 stocks saw a 50/50 split with the index losing 20 points, down to 17,049, with a .1% drop.    For the second day in a row, blue chips dipped to under 17,000 during the session, but managed to meander back above 17,000 by the day’s end.

Coca Cola backed off .5% to just under $42, but the stock is holding strong, with a 6% upside performance in the last month alone.  January $44 calls were in play, mostly as new long buys around $.45 for more than 6000 contracts.

Stocks to watch this morning include:

Twitter is looking to raise up to 1.3 billion dollars in a bond offering.  Borrowing now, when interest rates are low, may be a sign they have some acquisition in mind.  TWTR is .25% at $52.75, as the total cash hoard would be 3.5 Billion including their spare change on hand.

Tesla giga factory in Nevada was approved by state legislators, signing off on tax incentives for car maker.  TSLA sits unchanged at $280 ½, with the record up above $290.

Darden Restaurants is back above $50 (+5%) as it reviews a plan to separate its food business from its real estate holdings. Sources say it could double DRI value to $100.

Overseas markets have The Nikei in Japan up .25%, leading the day once again.  Europe is mixed with the FTSE in London up .2% and the DAX in Germany -.2%.

Stock index futures prices are steady with the Emini S&P up 2 points.  The Dow futures are 10 points higher here this morning with an hour to go before the open of the cash stock market.