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Options: J.C. Penney- Icahn rumors, Annaly Worries

Options activity in J.C. Penney is on a tear. Why?

"Calls are trading at their highest levels in 2 months. There's rumors in the market that Carl Icahn is sniffing around J.C. Penney," said Rebecca Darst, Interactive Brokers options analyst, in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk box."

Calls allow traders to buy stocks at a certain price in the future. A spike in calls generally means some investors think the price of the stock will go up. Carl Icahn is an activist investor with a reputation for forcing managements into stock boosting moves.

Although the activity in Penney's options looked as though investors were expecting a big increase in their value, shares of the retailer were lower on Thursday following its release of weak sales growth in February.

Also on the options front, Annaly Captial Management seemed to be weathering the mortgage storm very well. Maybe not anymore.

Trading in Annaly options indicates some worries about the company's prospects, according to Darst.

"What that tells us is that options traders have a real sense of trepidation about the price risk to Annaly shares going forward," she said. The options activity may be investors hedging gains in the stock recently, she said, or it may be moves by traders worried that Annaly may suffered collateral damage from problems confronting its competitor, Thornburg Mortgage .

See her full comments in the video.

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