As February began, the federal government shutdown was over and the January employment report was stronger than expected, but ongoing concerns about trade and fears of a recession lingered. It was also a time when bond king Bill Gross retired, high-profile CEO Jeff Bezos revealed a politically motivated blackmail scheme, and the empire he founded abandoned plans to build a second headquarters in New York City.
Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the January 31 and February 15 settlement dates, those sellers were stocking up on some of their favorites, though they also seemed to leap to get out of the way of the king of the hill, Sirius XM. Others bucking the trend included AMD and Comcast.
Note that still just three Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short as of the most recent settlement date.
> Shares short: Nearly 174.74 million
> Change from prior period: −36.6%
> Percentage of float: 14.9
This decline ended third straight periods with an increase in Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares held short and was enough to land at the lowest level of short interest in the past year. The average daily volume dwindled a bit from the prior period, but the days to cover slipped from about nine to less than six.
Sirius completed its acquisition of Pandora Media during the period. Its stock climbed about 5% but then ended the first two weeks of this month up only a little more than 2%. The Nasdaq increased almost 3% between the settlement dates.
Sirius stock closed at $5.92 a share on Wednesday, which is less than 4% higher than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week low of $5.48 was seen just before and again after Christmas, while the multiyear high of $7.70 was reached last summer.
> Shares short: More than 144.54 million
> Change from prior period: +12.0%
> Percentage of float: 25.1
Despite the third consecutive period of rising short interest in Caesars Entertainment Corp. (NASDAQ: CZR), the stock stayed at second on the list This was the greatest number of shares short in at least a year, and there have been more than 100 million shares short in 10 of the past 12 periods. At the latest average daily volume, the days-to-cover figure remained a little more than four.
We recently identified Caesars as a “fallen angel” stock with huge upside potential. Its share price ended the initial two weeks of this month fractionally lower, even though they had been up more than 3% a few times in the period. Afterward, the shares climbed again.
The stock ended Wednesday’s session at $8.45 per share, after retreating about 12% in the past week. Caesars has a 52-week trading range of $5.84 to $13.54. Note that the low was seen during the Christmas Eve market sell-off.
> Shares short: More than 115.97 million
> Change from prior period: −3.2%
> Percentage of float: 12.7
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) remains at number three on this list even though it lost more than 3.80 million shares short in the period in the third straight decline. The average daily volume plunged to a year-to-date low, but the number of days it would take to cover all short positions is still a little over one.
Jeffries has stuck with AMD despite its mixed fourth-quarter results, and the firm anticipates growth in the second half. Short sellers watched the share price retreat about 8% but recover enough to end those two weeks down less than 3%. They have continued to recover since then.
The stock closed trading most recently at $23.48 a share, which is 27% or so higher year to date, as well as down from last September’s 52-week high of $34.14. Shares have changed hands at as low as $9.04 apiece in the past year.