- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008


Options traders who predicted Google Inc. would beat estimates earned as much as 17,530 percent on their investments Friday, the most profitable bet among all U.S. equity derivatives.

Contracts giving the right to buy Google shares for $530 before the close of trading Friday jumped as high as $17.63 from their 10-cent closing price Thursday. That gain almost matched the 18,760 percent advance in the Dow Jones Industrial Average since 1900, according to Bloomberg data.

“In Google, you see the power of leverage in options, especially going into earnings,” said Peter Bottini, executive vice president of trading at OptionsXpress Holdings Inc., a Chicago-based online brokerage. “We were swamped with customers who were calling in at the open of the market.”

Google shares climbed 20 percent, the most since its initial public offering in 2004, to $539.41, after the owner of the most popular Internet search engine beat the average analyst profit estimate by 7.1 percent. Google had dropped 35 percent this year on concern that the U.S. economic slump would hurt spending on online advertising.

Google call-option volume jumped to 311,139 contracts, the most since January 2006. Those contracts outnumbered trading in bearish bets, or puts, by 1.6-to-1. Call options give the right to buy a security for a certain amount, called the strike price, by a given date. Puts convey the right to sell.

“We expect our more active customers to come out of the woodwork and start playing Google again,” Mr. Bottini said.

Friday’s share surge was more than triple what the options market was expecting as of Thursday, based on prices paid for April contracts with a strike price closest to Thursday’s closing share price, Bloomberg data show.

Google closed Thursday at $449.54. At the same time, the price of $450 straddles, which combine a put and a call at that strike price, was $30. That indicates traders expected a move of at least that amount, or 6.7 percent, in order to break even on the position.

“The market viewed this as a long shot, but not an impossibility,” said Chris Jacobson, a senior options strategist at Susquehanna Financial Group in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

Google contracts were the fifth most traded among U.S. stock options in the first quarter, according to Chicago-based Options Clearing Corp., which settles all trading of exchange-listed contracts. During the first three months of the year, 7.69 million Google options were traded.

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