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Facebook Inc (FB) Stock Soars To New Highs As Analysts Prepare For Earnings

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Facebook Inc (FB) stock jumped by more than 1% on Monday to reach a new record high of $152.50 just two days before the company’s next earnings report. However, some are also betting on a ceiling for the shares this week. And what makes the story even more interesting is that Facebook stock just hit that ceiling today for the first time, so those options traders are betting on the shares dropping after earnings.

Facebook Inc (FB)  stock on the rise

When the social networking firm reports after the bell on Wednesday, Wall Street is expecting adjusted earnings of $1.12 per share and $7.83 billion in revenue. However, the whisper number is running closer to $1.21 per share, and the soaring price of Facebook Inc (FB) stock demonstrates a high degree of confidence that at the very least, the company will beat expectations.

On Friday, Needham analyst Laura Martin boosted her price target for Facebook Inc (FB) stock from $150 to $165 per share and reiterated her Buy rating, saying that it appears the company is taking share of the ad market more quickly than she had thought previously. According to comScore, Facebook and Alphabet’s Google made up approximately 90% of the growth in the digital ad market last year.

Facebook Inc (FB) wins in e-commerce

Nanigans, maker of advertising automation software, said in its first-quarter Global Facebook Advertising Benchmark report that e-commerce advertisers in particular were eating up ad space on Facebook. The firm found that on average, e-commerce advertisers increased their spending on Facebook Inc (FB) ads by an average of 16% year over year, based on “a same-advertiser set of large-scale ecommerce companies.” E-commerce mobile ad spend grew 58% year over year, the firm added.

The firm adds that the average increase in return on ad spend among this group was 31% year over year, which highlights that the advertisers are indeed getting strong returns. Of course the way Facebook is able to increase the return on investment for advertisers is by strong targeting, which some have discovered to be disturbing in some ways, given the report that the company targeted emotionally vulnerable teens in a recent study.

Facebook rises and falls on ad performance

Nanigans also reports that the performance of Dynamic ads surged in the first quarter as well.

Facebook Audience Network has also grown significantly, the firm said, meaning that all those investments some shareholders were upset about appear to have paid off.

Other key metrics include the average click-through rate, which the firm said matched the previous record high, which was set in the third quarter of 2016. Nanigans attributes the consistent growth in this metric to Facebook Inc (FB)’s  ongoing investment in “highly engaging ad formats.”

Average cost per thousand impressions fell sequentially but grew year over year, with Facebook Audience Network contributing to the trend of this metric staying below $6.52 most of the time, except for during the holiday shopping quarter.

Like we saw in Google’s results, Facebook Inc (FB)’s cost per click fell in the first quarter, and Nanigans said this is the third consecutive quarter in which cost per click remained below 50 cents, adding that this is the longest streak of this occurring in the history of this quarterly report. For comparison, Google’s aggregate cost per click declined 19% year over year.

Shares of Alphabet soared close to their all-time high after the company’s earnings report on Thursday, riding high on growth at Google, so investors are clearly reading Alphabet’s beat as positive for Facebook as well.

Options set a ceiling for Facebook stock on earnings week

Schaeffer’s Research reports that bullish options for Facebook Inc (FB)  stock were also soaring on Monday along with the share price, citing data from the Chicago Board Options Exchange, NASDAQ OMX PHLX and International Securities Exchange. The firm reports that the 10-day call/ put volume ratio for Facebook stands at 2.04 across the exchanges, placing it in the 90th annual percentile. It adds that this suggests an “unusual level of call buying relative to puts in recent weeks.”

However, Schaeffer’s did find some uncertainty when looking at the weekly options. For example, the weekly 5/5 150 and 152.50 strike calls were two of the most popular options on FFacebook Inc (FB) stock over the last couple of weeks based on levels of open interest. Note that as of this writing, $152.50 was the all-time high for Facebook stock set today, so investors were already anticipating that level for the last couple of weeks.

Interestingly, Schaeffer’s also found “notable sell-to-open activity” at both of the two strike levels, which means that many investors are betting that Facebook Inc (FB) stock will end the week below them.

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