Investing

We're Seeing KRE, ARKK, SLV and 4 Other ETFs With Unusual Options Activity

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Like stocks, exchange-traded funds can have unusual options activity too. Many investors brush off or ignore ETF options trading because options are complex and misunderstood. However, many other traders have learned how to “follow the flow.”

In other words, they want to know what the big funds and institutions are doing. When these buyers make their move in the options world, they leave a trail behind them — footsteps.

We can follow those footsteps when looking for unusual options activity.

For this, we turn to Fintel’s Options Flow Leaderboard for both calls and puts, helping us keep track of it all when we see outsized volume. This gives readers the results trade data that ranks stocks or ETFs by net premium (call premium – put premium) paid in large block trades in the current or most recent trading day. Companies at the top of the list have the highest bullish sentiment by large options buyers.

Let’s look at some of the most interesting action of the past week.

SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY)

Is it any surprise that the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (US:SPY) rings in at Number 1 this week? It’s the largest U.S. ETF by assets under management, with $359.63 billion, so of course it sees plenty of action. In that regard, we could write this whole article about the SPY ETF. Instead, we’ll only pick a few trades that stood out.

With nine minutes left in Friday’s trading session — the last session of the first quarter — someone sold $13.50 million worth of the March 2024 $385 puts. If this trade is a single leg (meaning it’s not part of a larger spread or position), then it’s a bullish put sale.

Yet 10 minutes earlier, another trader sold $17.5 million worth of the June $465 puts, which was deep-in-the-money with the SPY trading near $408 at the time.

One other trade stood out, this one from March 30. That’s after one firm bought $25.6 million worth of the June $450 puts, sold $45.3 million of the June $465 puts and sold $29.4 million of the December 2024 $700 puts.

SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (KRE)

Worries over the banking industry seem to have died down, but it was a huge talking point throughout March. That focus centered on SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (US:KRE), so it’s no surprise to see that the options activity continued into the end of March.

However, the recent activity definitely leaned bullish, particularly on March 30.

That’s as someone sold $1.52 million of the April $63 puts and $1.7 million of the April $60 puts. Both positions were deep-in-the-money with the KRE ETF trading near $43 at the time of the trade. Earlier in the day, two other put sales of roughly $1 million were noted as well.

Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLU)

The Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund (US:XLU) ended the quarter on a six-day win streak. Perhaps that helped bring out the bulls.

On March 28, one firm set in motion trades that sold the September at-the-money $63 puts in roughly $250,000 increments, totaling more than $2.6 million in premium collected by the time they were done.

At least, done that day.

With the XLU ETF trading near $67 on March 29, someone sold $1.6 million worth of the June $80 puts and $810,000 of the June $75 puts. Meanwhile, those September at-the-money $63 puts, sold as they did the day before, with another $3 million worth of premium in the same puts. This time, the trades were taking place roughly every 30 minutes in increments of $115,000 to $150,000.

iShares Silver Trust (SLV)

Silver and gold have been trading pretty well as economic worries continue to grow. The iShares Silver Trust (US:SLV) has rallied in three straight weeks and has climbed 20% from the March low. Despite the recent rally, a lot of the options activity has been bearish.

That includes $440,000 of the at-the-money July $22 calls being sold, $403,000 of the July $21 calls being sold and more than $537,000 of additional calls sold at three different strikes — the May $21’s, October $21’s and April 14 $22.50’s).

Further, $1 million of the January 2024 $23 calls were sold on March 27, which came a few hours after $924,000 of the same calls were sold (likely by the same trader).

iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA)

To be sure, some investors may not be familiar with the iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (US:EFA). The exchange-traded fund “seeks to track the investment results of an index composed of large- and mid-capitalization developed market equities, excluding the U.S. and Canada,” according to the sponsor, Blackrock’s (US:BLK) iShares.

In any regard, there were several notable seven-figure trades, but two bullish trades in particular stood out.

The first came on March 27, as someone bought $1.2 million of the slightly in-the-money June $67 calls and $4.34 million of the September $69 calls.

The second trade came on March 30, when someone sold $1.1 million of the December $65 puts and about $1 million of the December $60 puts. Both trades were out-of-the-money and are bullish on their own, although it’s possible they are part of a larger and more complex spread.

ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK)

Investors tend to keep a close eye on the ARK Innovation ETF (US:ARKK). While CEO Cathie Wood has been generating headlines lately with her $1 million Bitcoin musings, it’s this top growth-stock ETF that has our attention.

Going into quarter-end, there was some solid options flow on the bull side.

On March 28, someone bought $975,000 worth of the at-the-money January 2024 $38 calls. Another bull was spotted a day later, this time as they sold $2.45 million worth of the January 2025 $38 puts. Note that these expire in almost two years.

On March 30, someone bought $970,000 worth of the September $48 calls, which were about $10 out-of-the-money at the time of the trade.

Lastly, on March 31, someone sold $1.1 million worth of the January 2024 $38 puts (so just on the opposite side of the aforementioned January 2024 $38 call purchase from a few days earlier on March 28, and of similar size). If related, this would create a bullish risk-reversal, which is quite a bullish bet.

United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (UNG)

Last but not least, the United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (US:UNG) stands out as natural gas prices remain volatile and have struggled to rally over the last few weeks. Despite the decline, one bullish trade in particular stands out.

That’s as one trader bought $2.4 million worth of the at-the-money June $7 calls.

This article originally appeared on Fintel

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