Options traders appear to be expecting a hot start to first-quarter earnings season, as “straddles” on shares of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are priced for much-bigger-than-usual moves after results are released.
Meanwhile, stock option prices are implying a post-earnings move in Wells Fargo & Co.’s stock that is mostly in line with recent history.
To gauge how much a stock is expected to move the day after earnings are reported, Wall Street traders can use an options strategy known as a “straddle,” which involves the simultaneous pricing of both bullish (calls) and bearish (puts) options with strike prices at the same “at-the-money,” or current, share price for expiration at the end of the week. Read more about straddles.
Straddles are pure volatility plays, as they are not directional. Straddle buyers make money if a stock moves in either direction more than the options pricing implies, otherwise the straddle expires worthless.
J.P. Morgan Chase’s stock is priced for a move of $4.07 on Wednesday in either direction, or 44% greater than the average one-day move of $2.82 after the past 12 quarterly reports, according to data provided by Option Research & Technology Services (ORATS) principal Matt Amberson.
For Goldman, straddles are prepped for a $11.64 move, or 72% greater than the average move of $6.78, ORATS data show.
Meanwhile, Wells Fargo straddles are implying a $1.51 move on Wednesday, according to ORATS, just 0.5% greater than the $1.45 average move.
Investors interested in buying straddles should keep in mind that the house usually wins. The average actual “win ratio” for straddle buyers of companies tracked by ORATS during earnings season over the past 12 quarters is 35%, meaning and average of 65% of straddles purchased expire worthless.
For reference, the FactSet consensus for earnings per share is $3.09 for J.P. Morgan, $10.22 for Goldman and 71 cents for Wells. Total revenue is expected to be $30.49 billion for J.P. Morgan, $12.56 billion for Goldman and $17.52 billion for Wells.
Analysts have gotten more optimistic about the banks’ results in recent months as the FactSet EPS consensus as of the end of January for J.P. Morgan $2.76, and was $7.55 for Goldman and 60 cents for Wells.
Over the past three months, shares of J.P. Morgan rose 10.0%, Goldman gained 8.5% and Wells Fargo climbed 17.9%, while the SPDR Financial Select Sector exchange-traded fund
has advanced 11.9% and the S&P 500 index
has gained 8.7%.