Options give traders the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a stock. A call option is the right to acquire a stock in the future at a preset price. A put option is the right to sell.
“We’re seeing not only increased volume in Alibaba, Baidu and some of the other names, we’re seeing it very much dominated by upside call activity” indicating expectations of price gains, Russell said.
“U.S. investors are starting to notice these companies,” he said.
For example, the average daily options volume for JD.com from June 27 to 30 was 25,606, according to E-Trade data of U.S. options markets. That jumped to an average 41,632 last week.
Traders bought 16,000 to 54,000 of call options on JD each day last week, in contrast to between 6,500 and 13,000 for put options, according to E-Trade.
Chinese tech stocks can run further, analysts said, since their market capitalization is smaller than their U.S. counterparts.
Alibaba’s market cap is just under $400 billion, versus Amazon.com’s $478 billion. Baidu’s market cap is far smaller at $79 billion and a fraction of Alphabet’s $648 billion.
To be sure, Chinese tech stocks tend to be volatile and remain vulnerable to sudden government investigations or regulation changes.
In June, shares of Weibo and other Chinese social media stocks dropped after the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said it would shut down Weibo’s video services because it didn’t have proper licenses. Separately, a government investigation into Baidu’s advertising practices coincided with a sharp drop in profits in the second quarter of 2016.
However, Baidu recovered from that slump and reported in late July that second quarter profits jumped 83.5 percent from the prior year, to 4.41 billion yuan ($660 million).
Of the four other Chinese tech stocks with high options volume, NetEase is scheduled to release quarterly results on Wednesday, JD on Aug. 14, Alibaba on Aug. 17 and Momo on Aug. 22.