In most years, August is the heart of the summer doldrums, but this year the markets are hitting new all-time highs. And short sellers were not shy between the July 29 and August 15 settlement dates, at least when it comes to the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
There were big swings, both up and down, resulting in Ford rising to the top of this list, displacing embattled Sprint. Chesapeake Energy also made a run up the list, landing in the number five spot after reporting disappointing earnings during the two weeks.
Note that all the top six stocks on the list still had more than 110 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.
After a 2% or so gain in the previous period, the short interest in Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) increased another 9%, bringing the number of its shares short to almost 161.29 million by the middle of the month. That represented 4.2% of the total float, still down from a high of about 4.4% in mid-March. It would take about four days to cover all short positions.
Ford sales and market share have slipped recently. Its share price decreased nearly 2% in the two-week period, and a little more afterward. Ford shares have changed hands between $11.02 and $15.84 apiece in the past year. They were trading at $12.30 on Wednesday’s close, which is down more than 12% year to date.
Short interest in Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has dwindled for four periods in a row, most recently around 5%, allowing it to slip from its place as the most shorted NYSE stock. The approximately 152.78 million shares short reported most recently totaled 24.3% of the float. The days to cover rose from four to nine as the daily average volume dwindle in the initial weeks of the month.
Late last month, Sprint reported record subscriber growth. Its share price ended the short interest period about where it began it, though it was down about 3% at one point. The S&P 500 rose only fractionally in the first two weeks of the month. Sprint shares closed at $6.09 on Wednesday, within a 52-week range of $2.18 to $6.35.