Option Traders React to Struggling Telecommunications Sector

While option activity on AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) is accelerated, Sprint Corp (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile US Inc (NYSE:TMUS) are seeing barely any play at all

Jul 22, 2015 at 11:02 AM
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With domestic indexes sitting mostly in the red in early trading, one of the worst-performing sectors today has been telecommunications. Four of the major players in this group -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), Sprint Corp (NYSE:S), and T-Mobile US Inc (NYSE:TMUS) -- are all trading off today. Let's take a closer look at what has the shares of T, VZ, S, and TMUS moving lower, and how option traders are responding.

T is seeing particular interest today, as reports indicate the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to approve the company's merger with DIRECTV (NASDAQ:DTV). While DTV is 0.3% higher at $92.79, T is off 1.2% at $34.17.

With the company set to release earnings after tomorrow's close, though, this hasn't prevented speculators from placing bullish bets. Calls are crossing at two times the expected intraday pace. The August 36 call is coming in as the most popular option thus far, with what appears to be mostly buy-to-open activity. In other words, traders are betting on AT&T Inc. to jump above $36 before front-month options expire at the close on Friday, Aug. 21.

Meanwhile, fellow wireless heavyweight VZ is down 1.3% to hit $46.38, with traders eyeing a trio of price-target cuts -- from Cowen (to $48), Barclays (to $51), and J.P. Morgan Securities (to $50). Today's price action -- along with yesterday's post-earnings drop -- has put the shares into the red on a year-to-date basis.

Option traders, meanwhile, have taken a liking to puts. which are crossing at a slightly accelerated rate. This is just part of the recent trend in Verizon Communications Inc.'s options arena, though. During the past 10 weeks at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock has posted a put/call volume ratio of 0.96, which is just 9 percentage points from an annual bearish peak.

S and TMUS are both moving lower, too, but option activity on these two is notable for a different reason. The former is down 0.9% at $3.74, and actually, option volume is extremely light. By this time in the day, Sprint Corp expects around 2,200 contracts to have crossed -- today it's only seen 461.

T-Mobile US Inc is down 0.7% at $37.34, and it too is seeing extremely weak option volume. Only 62 contracts have crossed today, compared to an average of 3,100 contracts for this point in the day. 


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