Healthy corporate earnings seemed to be enough to continue the eight-year old bull market in late April, with major indexes near all-time highs despite political and geopolitical uncertainties that had oil prices in retreat. The moves among the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange revealed that short sellers had one or two clear favorites between the April 13 and April 28 settlement dates.
Most clearly that was oilfield services company Weatherford International, which reclaimed its spot on the top of the list during the most recent period with a sharp rise in the number of its shares short. Likewise, GE saw a handy gain in short interest and clung to the bottom of the top 10.
Note that the top six stocks on the list all had more than 115 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.
Weatherford International PLC (NYSE: WFT) reclaimed its title as the most shorted NYSE stock with a more than 10% rise in the number of shares short in the final two weeks of this month. The more than 144.87 million shares reported most recently was the highest level of short interest in the past year, and it represented 14.9% of this oil and gas driller’s total float. The days to cover reading ended the period at around six.
Weatherford was a Deutsche Bank top pick during the period. The stock ended the two weeks more than 4% lower, though it was down almost 10% at one point. The S&P 500 saw a more than 2% gain in that time. The stock closed most recently at $5.07 a share, which still is marginally higher year to date. Shares have changed hands between $3.73 and $7.09 in the past 52 weeks.
The number of Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s (NYSE: CHK) shares short has risen in nearly every period so far this year. It increased most recently by more than 4% to more than 140.97 million shares short, not enough to keep it at the top of the list. That was 15.8% of the company’s float, though. At the most current daily average, it would take about four days to cover all the short positions.
The short interest period ended before Chesapeake reported better-than-expected earnings. Shares were down more than 10% by the end of the month, though the quarterly results have helped little since. The stock closed most recently at $5.40. That was up handily from the multiyear low of $3.56 from last summer, but less than the 52-week high of $8.20 seen back in mid-December.
The nearly 133.96 million AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) shares short on the most recent settlement date was marginally greater than in the middle of April. It also was 2.2% of the float, and it was the second highest level of short interest in at least a year. As of the latest settlement date, it would take about six days to cover all short positions.
AT&T was one of our top defensive picks against a possible correction this summer. In the latter two weeks of last month, short sellers watched the share price drop less than 2%, though it has retreated further since that time. The stock closed on Tuesday at $38.22 a share, which was around 10% lower than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range for the shares is $36.10 to $43.89.