The overbought markets, along with political and geopolitical uncertainties and the rising concerns about a sizable market correction, prompted some short sellers into action in the first two weeks of this month. There were some big moves among the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange between the April 28 and May 15 settlement dates.
The two energy companies that top this list saw some of the largest upswings here. A surge in short interest also lifted a Brazilian miner back into the top 10. Other changes in the numbers of shares short were more modest, and mostly to the upside.
Note that the top six stocks on the list all had more than 110 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.
Weatherford International PLC (NYSE: WFT) remained the most shorted NYSE stock with a more than 12% rise in the number of shares short in the first two weeks of this month. That was the second double-digit percentage increase in a row. The nearly 162.51 million shares reported most recently was the highest level of short interest in the past year, and it represented 12.2% of this oil and gas driller’s total float. The days to cover reading ended the period at around six.
Weatherford posted a quarterly net loss at the end of April. Shares were down more than 9% in the two-week period, though they were more than 12% lower at one point. The stock closed most recently at $5.32. That was up handily from the multiyear low of $3.73 from last November, but less than the 52-week high of $7.09 seen back in March.
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 almost 15% to more than 162.03 million shares short, but not enough to push it back to the top of the list. That was 14.9% of the company’s float, though. At the most current daily average, it would take about four days to cover all the short positions.
Merrill Lynch downgraded Chesapeake earlier this month, but was it justified? The stock ended the two weeks almost 6% higher, though it was up more than 9% at one point. The S&P 500 saw a fractional gain in that time. The stock closed most recently at $5.55 a share, which is about 21% lower year to date. Shares have changed hands between $3.93 and $8.20 in the past 52 weeks.
The more than 141.75 million AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) shares short on the most recent settlement date was almost 6% greater than in the end of April. It also was 2.3% of the float, as well was the 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.
Rival Verizon recently outbid AT&T for the 5G assets in Straight Path Communications. In the first two weeks of this month, short sellers watched the share price pull back about 4% and recover just a little. The stock closed on Wednesday at $38.15 a share, which was more than 10% lower than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range for the shares is $36.10 to $43.89.