March went out like a lamb, as far as the markets were concerned, with the major indexes retreating from all-time highs. Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq, short sellers seemed cautious overall. Moves in those shorted stocks were mostly negative between the March 15 and March 31 settlement dates.
The only notable gainer in that time was a biopharma stock that was new to this list, lifted by a double-digit percentage gain in the number of its shares short. It bumped another specialty pharma stock out of the top six.
Note that still only three Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short, as of the end of last month. However, two of them remain very far ahead of the pack.
The approximately 261.72 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares short by the end of March was more than 5% lower than on the previous settlement date. That was the second period in a row that the number of shares short shrank, and it was 17.0% of the float. At the most recent average daily volume, it would take more than 11 days to cover all short positions.
Barclays downgraded Sirius during the period. The stock ended the two weeks almost 3% lower, though it was up more than 1% at one point. The Nasdaq rose less than 1% between the settlement dates. The stock is currently trading more than 13% higher year to date. It closed Tuesday at $5.06 a share, in a 52-week trading range of $3.74 to $5.53.
After rising modestly in the previous three periods, the number of shares short in Frontier Communications Corp. (NASDAQ: FTR) pulled back almost 8% more to almost 252.08 million as of the most recent settlement date. That was 21.6% of the telecom’s float, as well as the 15th consecutive period with more than 200 million shares short. The daily average volume rose sharply again, and the days to cover dropped from around five to about three.
There have been concerns about whether Frontier can maintain its dividend. The share price was down around 11% by the end of the month. The stock has continued to fall since then, and it hit a 52-week low of $1.92 last month. The 52-week high of $5.75 was seen almost a year ago. The stock closed most recently at $2.05 a share.
By the end of March, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had almost 111.32 million shares short. That was a decline of about 3% from the total on the previous settlement date, and it was 13.4% of the company’s float. Note that short interest had grown in six of the past seven periods. It still would take less than two days to cover all short positions.
AMD was among the Jefferies top semiconductor picks during the period, and the March 31 share price was about 4% higher than on the previous settlement date, though it was down more than 3% at one point. The stock closed at $13.10 on Tuesday, more than 15% higher year to date. Shares have changed hands at between $2.60 and $15.55 in the past year.