Hot Option Plays: Interesting VIX Activity After HoursOptions Xpressupdated Feb 13, 2013TweetAt GET.com we maintain complete editorial integrity on our content & provide transparent & unbiased information. Companies don't pay us to include their products although we receive a compensation when you successfully apply to products from our partners. See how we make money here.At GET.com we maintain complete editorial integrity.Cusick's Corner 02-13-2013 After Hours This is a market that is supported by institutional money and stimulus. Earnings have been solid but the rev misses and makes are not painting a picture that gives the retail trader the need to jump into this market at the highs with both feet. So what to do? First, as I have said before, do not chase. Second, when we get dips either in individual equities or general indices, look to see if nibbling is warranted or if a trend shift actually started to transpire. Last, be patient. This is an overbought market and has been like that for a while now. Looking at the VIX, we are still right off the lows of the year and of 2007. Take a look at the commentary on the VIX spread in May that traded today, there is at least one strategist who is looking to potentially capitalize on a pop in the volatility index into May. See you Midday. Trading finished mixed again Wednesday after a report on Retail Sales was in-line with expectations. Total sales ticked up just .1 percent in January. The headline number matched economist estimates. The financial press was also focused on President Obama's State of the Union address. In the speech Tuesday evening, the President emphasized the need for clean energy and stricter gun control. He also urged Congress to act before the March 1 deadline for the $85 billion in automatic government spending cuts. At the end of the day, the speech offered little new information and there was minimal reaction to the commentary. European markets finished with modest gains. Crude oil drifted down 35 cents to $97.16 and gold lost $7 to $1642.5. On Wall Street, Deere (DE) was out with better-than-expected earnings, but shares lost 3.5 percent. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped into midday and remained range-bound in the afternoon session. The Dow lost 36 points Wednesday. However, the tech-heavy NASDAQ added 10.4 points.Bullish Tyco International (TYC) adds 49 cents to $31.50 in active trading of 3.6 million shares after Bloomberg ran a story about the Swiss based security and protection services company, calling it "takeover bait". Shares moved higher on the day and options volume was lopsided, as 7,550 calls and 550 puts traded on the ticker. March 34 calls were the most active in Tyco International Wednesday. 2,310 traded against 63 in open interest. March 31 and 33 calls saw interest as well and implied volatility in TYC options was up 2 percent to 20.5. Bullish trading was also seen in Las Vegas Sands (LVS), Groupon (GRPN), and General Dynamics (GD).Bearish Big Lots (BIG), a Columbus, OH discount retailer, was up 25 cents to $33.50 and put volume trounced call activity in the name today. 3,900 puts and 650 calls traded on BIG today. March 30 puts were the most active. 1,819 contracts traded against 1,588 in open interest. Most of the flow was in smaller lots traded for 60 cents when the market was 50 to 60 cents. March 27.5 puts were the second most actives. 1,554 contracts changed hands. The increased put activity in the March term might be designed to hedge earnings event risk. BIG reports results around February 28. Bearish trading was also seen in Dunkin Brands (DNKN), Masco (MAS), and Polycom (PLCM).Index Trading Options on the CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX) were busy Wednesday. The February options expired today and the settlement value was 13.07. Now, some investors were probably opening positions in later expiration months to replace the expiring Feb upside calls, because VIX options are sometimes used within larger stock portfolios to help hedge the risk from volatility spikes in the US equity market. A total of 594,000 calls and 153,000 puts traded in the VIX pit today. In fact, VIX May 18 and 25 calls were among the day's most active contracts. An investor was buying the spread (buying 18s and selling 25s), 116,000X on the day.ETF Action iShares Mexico Fund (EWW) dropped $1.30 to $71.71 amid volatility in equity markets just south of the border. Mexico's Bolsa Index lost 1.7 percent today. Some investors might be concerned about further declines, as about 21,000 puts and 4,510 calls traded in EWW today. September 68 puts saw the bulk of the flow. 13,919 contracts traded against zero contracts of open interest. The largest trade was a block of 13,650 Sep 68 puts for $2.83 per contract when the market was $2.70 to $2.85. An investor might have an initiated the hefty premium purchase against a portfolio of Mexican names to help hedge the risk of further losses in the months ahead. The optionsXpress XPOUND newsletter is provided for informational purposes only. No statement in the XPOUND newsletter should be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell a security or to provide investment advice. The content provided has been obtained from sources deemed reliable but is not guaranteed as to accuracy and completeness. optionsXpress makes every effort to provide timely information to its recipients but cannot guarantee specific delivery times due to factors beyond our control. Options and Futures involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. Please read "Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options" available at http://www.optionsclearing.com/about/publications/character-risks.jsp and "Risk Disclosure Statement for Futures and Options" available at https://www.optionsxpress.com/downloads/risks_futures_options.pdf prior to applying for an account. Both disclosures are available on our website and also by calling 1.888.280.8020 or 1.312.629.5455.© 2013 optionsXpress, Inc. All rights reserved. Member FINRA, SIPC, AMEX, NOM, CBOE, ISE, ArcaEX, PHLX and NFA.Editorial Disclosure: Any personal views and opinions expressed by the author in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of GET.com. The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the companies mentioned, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.