March came in like a lamb, as far as the markets were concerned. With the major markets retreating from all-time highs, it began to look like the Trump rally was spent. Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange, overall short sellers seemed fairly enthusiastic about that. Moves in those shorted stocks were mostly positive between the February 28 and March 15 settlement dates.
Weatherford International led the trend, rising to the top of the list with a double-digit percentage gain in short interest during the period. On the other hand, the increases in the number of Chesapeake Energy and Alibaba shares short were miniscule.
Note that the top six stocks on the list all had more than 100 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.
Weatherford International PLC (NYSE: WFT) is once again the most shorted NYSE stock, following a 16.7% surge in short interest in the first two weeks of this month. The almost 137.87 million shares short represented 14.2% of this oil and gas driller’s total float. At the most current daily average, it would take about four days to cover all the short positions.
Weatherford named its new chief executive officer during the short interest period. Its shares ended the two weeks around 11% higher, while the S&P 500 was up about 1% in that time. The stock closed most recently at $5.89, which is about 18% higher year to date. Shares have changed hands between $3.73 and $8.49 in the past 52 weeks.
Though the number of Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s (NYSE: CHK) shares short has risen in each period so far this year, it took a breather most recently, with short interest essentially flat as of mid-March. The almost 134.66 million shares short reported most recently were 15.3% of the float. As of the latest settlement date, the days to cover reading was a bit more than three.
Chesapeake saw some notable insider buying earlier this month. In the two-week period, short sellers watched the share price pull back more than 9% but then recover to end flat. It retreated again afterward and closed most recently at $5.22. That was still up handily from the multiyear low of $3.53 from almost a year ago, but less than the 52-week high of $8.20 seen in mid-December.
The short interest has declined in seven of the previous nine periods. But the number of Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) shares short grew by about 8 million shares, or nearly 7%, between the most recent settlement dates. The around 124.50 million shares reported totaled 19.5% of the float. The days to cover rose from about eight to 10 during those two weeks.
Sprint and its peers appear to be in a race to the bottom. Sprint’s share price ended the two weeks about 6% lower than where it began, though it was up about 1% at one point. The stock has recovered some of that decline since then and closed most recently at $8.50. The stock hit a 52-week high of $9.65 earlier this year, well up from the 52-week low of $3.14 almost a year ago.