Slow-Starting AT&T Options Activity Picks Up in Late Morning - TheStreet

The bleeding in AT&T (T) - Get Report shares continued Monday as the poorly performing stock slumped again.

And so far Monday, it doesn't appear that many bargain hunters or speculators are betting that the tough times for AT&T's stock are over, judging from the action in stock's options. Last week, a notable number of investors were placing bets on the cable and telephone giant via the options market.

Shares of AT&T were trading down 69 cents to $29.06. Earlier in the session, the stock hit a 52-week intraday low of $28.63.

The New York Times

, citing a person close to AT&T, reported Monday that AT&T's board last week decided to continue talks with

British Telecommunications

(BTY)

about a combination of the two carrier's units that sell business customers communications services. The newspaper also reported that no deal was imminent.

Volume in AT&T options was heavy overall

Thursday, with the volume leaning more to the call rather than the put side.

Activity in AT&T options Monday was muted for much of the morning before picking up late in the morning. The October 30 puts were seeing notable interest on the

Pacific Exchange

, with more than 4,000 contracts changing hands. The puts were up 1/4 ($25) to 2 1/4 ($225). A put is the type of option that gives the purchaser the right but not the obligation to sell a security for a specified price at a certain time. Puts are bought when an investor is trying either to speculate on the downward movement of a stock or protect the gains from a long position that has generated strong returns but may be headed for a downturn.

Paul Foster of

1010WallStreet.com

in Chicago, said that he was surprised there wasn't more call buying in AT&T options as the stock makes new lows. Foster said part of the reason for the pressure on AT&T shares could be related to end of the quarter window dressing. In AT&T's case, money managers may be selling the stock to get the poor performing issue out of their portfolios before reporting their end of the quarter holdings to their bosses and shareholders. Year-to-date, as of Friday's close, AT&T was down a little more than 40%.