The 6 Most Shorted NYSE Stocks

September 13, 2017 by Trey Thoelcke

Source: courtesy of J.C. Penney Co. Inc.
Shorts sellers appeared to pick a favorite from the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange between the August 15 and August 31 settlement dates. While overall the short interest moves in these stocks were mixed and mild, J.C. Penney bucked that trend.

The struggling retailer shot to number three on the list with double-digit percentage growth in its short interest in the final two weeks of last month. However, that surge was outdone by that of Snap, though the stock didn’t quite rise into the top 10.

Note that the top six stocks on the list all had more than 120 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period. In fact, all but one of the top 10 had short interest of more than 100 million shares.

Chesapeake Energy

While the number of Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s (NYSE: CHK) shares short has risen in most periods so far this year, and it remains the most shorted NYSE stock, its short interest decreased most recently by about 1% to more than 196.68 million. That still was 22.0% of the company’s float. At the latest posted daily average trading volume, it would take about six days to cover all the short positions.

Chesapeake stock sank to new 52-week lows as Hurricane Harvey blasted the Gulf Coast. Its share price ended the two weeks more than 8% lower, though it has recovered somewhat since then. The S&P 500 saw only a fractional gain between the settlement dates. The stock closed Tuesday’s trading at $3.74 a share, after hitting a 52-week low of $3.55 recently, and now it is more than 46% lower year to date. Shares have changed hands as high as $8.20 in the past 52 weeks.

AT&T

The approximately 177.10 million AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) shares short on the most recent settlement date was around 4% higher than two weeks earlier, once again affirming its place in the number two spot on the list. Also it represented 2.9% of the float and was about the highest level of short interest in at least a year. As of the end of last month, it would take around 11 days to cover all short positions.

AT&T was still working on closing on its acquisition of Time Warner. In the first two weeks of August, short sellers watched the share price retreat by around 2%, as well as some more afterward. The stock closed most recently at $36.27 a share, which was more than 14% lower than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range for those shares is $35.10 to $43.03.

J.C. Penney

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) saw the number of its shares short surge from more than 121.16 million in the previous period to over 142.40 million. The latest reading was the greatest in the past year, the 11th in a row above 100 million, and also a whopping 49.3% of the struggling retailer’s float. The daily average trading volume decreased during the period, and the days to cover rose to about eight.

This year, J.C. Penney was among the companies laying off the most workers. Its share price rose more than 5% in the two-week short interest period, though it had been down about 3% at one point. The stock closed most recently at $4.20 a share. The 52-week low, seen last month, was $3.45, while the 52-week high of $10.74 was reached last December.

Weatherford International

Weatherford International PLC (NYSE: WFT) slips to the fourth spot on the list, though the number of shares short increased more than 1% in the latter two weeks of August. That was still one of the fewest seen since back in April. The more than 137.26 million shares reported most recently represented 14.1% of the total float. The days to cover reading ended the period at around 12.

Weatherford also is among the companies with the most layoffs seen this year. The company’s shares were less than 1% lower at the end of the two-week period, though they had been up nearly 3% at one point. The share price was last seen at $4.19. That was up from the multiyear low of $3.39 in early July, but handily less than the 52-week high of $7.09 from back in March.

Alibaba

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) saw the number of its shares short rise less than 3% from the previous period, erasing most of the decline in the previous two periods. And note that the more than 136.74 million shares reported totaled 5.4% of the Chinese e-commerce giant’s float. The daily average volume increased again during the period, so the days to cover shrank from about nine to around five.

Alibaba posted strong quarterly results during the latest short interest period. The share price rose almost 9% in the latter half of August, though it retreated a little afterward. The stock closed most recently at $175.62 a share. That is about 100% higher year to date. The 52-week low of $86.01 was seen last December, and the 52-week high of $177.00 last month.

Rite Aid

The number of Rite Aid Corp. (NYSE: RAD) shares short decreased a little more than 1%, taking a breather after increasing sharply in the previous two periods. Almost 124.23 million shares were short on the most recent settlement date. That represented 11.9% of the retailer’s total float. But the average daily trading volume fell to a 52-week low in the period, pushing up the days to cover to more than eight.

The stock has suffered since the merger deal with Walgreens turned sour. Though its shares ended the two weeks more than 4% higher, they were down about 4% early in the period. The stock closed most recently at $2.39 a share, which is still near the 52-week low of $2.21. Rite Aid shares hit a 52-week high of $8.77 early in the year.

And the Rest

Rounding out the top 10 were Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC). Here again, the short interest moves were mostly mild though mostly upward. GE bucked the trend with a modest decline in the number of its shares short.

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), Ensco Corp. (NYSE: ESV) and Snap Inc. (NYSE: SNAP) lingered just beyond the spotlight of the top 10 most shorted NYSE stocks. Note that short interest in the latter two rose sharply, but not enough to lift them into the top 10 as of the end of last month.