In the final weeks of January, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit the 20,000 milestone for the first time, and Donald Trump was sworn in at the 45 president of the United States. There were some notable moves in the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange between the January 13 and January 31 settlement dates, as short sellers appear to be repositioning themselves for the weeks and months ahead.
Those changes include a new king of the hill among the most shorted NYSE stocks, as well as a long-time short seller favorite that may be on its way out of the top 10.
Note that the top five stocks on the list all still had more than 100 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.
The new king of the hill is Weatherford International PLC (NYSE: WFT). Following three consecutive periods of little change, the number of shares short jumped about 14% to over 121.90 million. That figure represented 12.6% of this oil and gas driller’s total float. At the most current daily average, it would take about seven days to cover all the short positions.
Weatherford saw an analyst downgrade in late January. Its shares ended the two-week period about 1% lower, though they were up 3% three times in the period. The stock closed most recently at $5.96. That still is more than 19% higher year to date, though. The share price has ranged from $3.73 to $8.49 in the past 52 weeks.
The short interest has declined in five of the previous six periods. The number of Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) shares short retreated more than 15% between the most recent settlement dates, with the stock slipping from the top spot on the list. The more than 119.42 million shares reported totaled 18.9% of the float. The days to cover rose to about six from less than four during those two weeks.
Sprint announced an acquisition of a streaming music service last month. Sprint’s share price ended the two weeks more than 7% higher than where it began, though it was up more than 9% at one point. The share price has climbed about 42% in the past six months and closed most recently at $8.77. The stock hit a 52-week high of $9.65 late last month, well up from the 52-week low of $2.53 almost a year ago.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) saw its short interest grow only a little more than 1% to nearly 115.53 million shares by the end of the month. That was on top of a 3% gain in the previous period, and it totaled 4.8% of the float most recently. As of the latest settlement date, it would take about nine days to cover all short positions.
During the period, Alibaba reported better-than-expected quarterly results. Short sellers watched the share price jump about 8% and then pull back during the short interest period. The stock closed most recently at $103.34 a share, which is more than 17% higher since the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range is $59.85 to $109.87.