Option Trends: Applied Materials, Inc. (AMAT), Juniper Networks, and Texas Instruments Incorporated (TXN)

Speculative players have been taking sides on Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT), Juniper Networks, Inc. (NYSE:JNPR), and Texas Instruments Incorporated (NASDAQ:TXN), according to data from the major options exchanges. More specifically, the former two stocks have attracted the attention of option bulls, while the latter has drawn bearish speculation. Here’s a closer look at recent option activity on these three tech stocks.

 Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT)

During the past five days, options traders from the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), ISE and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), AMAT ($16.57, up $0.08) has racked up a 10-day call/put volume ratio of 4.26. Not only does this ratio indicate that traders have initiated more than four bullish bets for every bearish one during the past two weeks, it also arrives in the 81st percentile of its annual range. This suggests options players are buying AMAT calls over puts at an accelerated clip.

In the front-month series of options, the July 15 and 16 calls have been popular, with roughly 4,000 and 2,000 contracts added during the past two weeks, respectively. The 16 strike is now home to peak call open interest of nearly 18,500 contracts.

The $16 region had emerged as a technical speed bump for AMAT, halting most of the stock’s advances since late 2008. In Wednesday’s trading, however, the stock jumped 4.2% to a new annual high, taking out this level.

Juniper Networks, Inc. (NYSE:JNPR)

In the same vein, JNPR ($20.40, up $0.24) has seen a recent pop in call buying. During the past 10 sessions through Wednesday, speculators on the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX have bought to open 5,196 calls versus just 729 puts — resulting in a call/put volume ratio of 7.13. This ratio stands just 14 percentage points from an annual optimistic acme.

Also, the security sports a Schaeffer’s put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.59, indicating that calls outnumber puts roughly 5-to-3 among options with a shelf-life of three months or less. Furthermore, this ratio registers in the 38th percentile of its annual range, pointing to a healthier-than-usual appetite for short-term calls over puts.

On the charts, JNPR — which reports earnings on July 23 — has added more than 28% since hitting a 2013 low of $15.62 back in late April, and presently sits at $20.40. The shares could run into a round-number roadblock resistance in the $20 region, but $20 could now switch roles to act as support, which it provided in the first quarter of the year,  Beyond that, upside momentum could stall in the $22-$23 neighborhood — the former of which is home to peak call open interest in the July series, and an area that’s stifled JNPR since March 2012.

Texas Instruments Incorporated (NASDAQ:TXN)

Finally, option bears have turned their attention to TXN ($37.36, up $0.19), despite the stock’s year-to-date advance of more than 17%. During the past five sessions, the equity has seen 3,013 puts change hands on the ISE, compared to 220 calls — resulting in a bearishly skewed put/call volume ratio of 13.70.

Echoing that, TXN has racked up a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 4.32 on the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX, indicating that option buyers have favored puts over calls by a margin of more than 4-to-1 in the last two weeks. This ratio stands higher than 85% of comparable readings taken in the past year, implying that speculators are scooping up bearish bets at a rapid-fire pace.

Garnering notable attention have been the near-the-money August 35 and 36 puts, which have respectively seen roughly 3,300 and 5,200 contracts opened during the past two weeks. In the front-month series, the July 34 and 35 puts are most popular, with around 10,900 and 9,900 contracts outstanding, respectively.

Technically speaking, TXN — which will unveil its second-quarter earnings on July 22 — has tacked on more than 32% over the past year, ushered higher along its 10-week and 20-week moving averages. So far this month, the security has gained more than 7% to wink at $37.40, and is poised to end north of that trendline duo for the first time since early June. The aforementioned plethora of pessimistic positions could translate into options-related support for TXN in the near term.   Andrea Kramer