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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Most Widely Traded 48 Hour Clock: AT&T Times Three

24/7 Wall St. has begun coverage of the 36 most widely traded stocks, eighteen each from the NYSE and the NASDAQ. Most of these stocks trade over 50 million shares a week. This new feature will highlight each of the 36 stocks at least every 48 hours giving investors fresh infomation and perspective on the companies whose shares are most likely to move the broader markets.

Stocks: (T)(VZ)

AT&T has been flogging its "three screen" strategy. This links together the use of the PC, the TV and the cellphone.

The problem with the program is that it is not likely to work. Matt Davis of IDC was recently quoted in Multichannel News: “I think it is really interesting and I think it shows that AT&T is moving in a direction of innovation and tying things together with more than just one simple bill,” Davis said. “But I think the addressable market is still pretty small for it.”

And, there's the rub. Most consumers have no interest in having their PC and TV work together. The cellphone screen is so small that it is rarely useful for anything beyond the most basic functions like text messaging. And, the cellphone networks will not be upgraded for years to accomodate applications that require faster connections.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out recently referring to attempts to profit from new features on cellphones: "Setting the stage for another round of losses in the volatile telecom sector, a wave of cellphone start-ups that were counting on TV, music and other premium services to attract users is floundering".

The idea that the functions of three important devices can be combined is appealing to investors. It makes companies like AT&T and Verizon appear to be something other than old-line telephone companies. But, the market remains skeptical. AT&T at $27.24 has not been above $30 since January 2003. Verizon, at $32.63 has rarely been above $40 over the same period of three and a half years.

Cellphones that stream choppy video and fiber to the home that may allow TV over a wire other than the cable company's have a long way to go to get the share of the companies in this sector back on track.

Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at He does not own securities in companies he write about.

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