September can be a volatile time for the markets, and judging by most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange, expectations among short sellers were on the rise between the August 31 and September 15 settlement dates. Overall, short interest in these stocks grew.
GE led that trend with a double-digit percentage gain in the number of its shares short, though it did not rise into the top six. Bucking the trend were J.C. Penney, with a modest decline in short interest, and Rite Aid, which saw almost no change during those two weeks.
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 the top 10 had short interest of more than 100 million shares.
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. It saw a short interest gain of more than 1% to more than 199.86 million most recently. That was 22.3% of the company’s float. At the mid-month posted daily average trading volume, it would take about six days to cover all the short positions.
Chesapeake saw at least one analyst downgrade earlier this month. Yet its share price ended the two weeks almost 10% higher, and it has more than doubled that gain since then. The S&P 500 saw a little more than a 1% gain between the settlement dates. The stock closed Tuesday’s trading at $4.37 a share, up from a recent 52-week low of $3.55, and now it is more than 36% lower year to date. Shares have changed hands as high as $8.20 in the past 52 weeks.
The more than 186.73 million AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) shares short on the most recent settlement date was more than 5% higher than two weeks earlier, once again affirming its place in the number two spot on the list. Also it represented 3.0% of the float and was the highest level of short interest in at least a year. As of the middle of this month, it would take around six days to cover all short positions.
Like its rivals, AT&T announced its deals for the newly revealed iPhones. In the first two weeks of September, short sellers watched the share price retreat by around 5% but then recover most of that loss. The stock closed most recently at $38.72 a share, which was about 10% lower than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range for those shares is $35.10 to $43.03.
Weatherford International PLC (NYSE: WFT) rises to the third spot on the list as the number of shares short increased almost 6% in the initial two weeks of September. That ended three consecutive periods of dwindling short interest. The more than 145.28 million shares reported most recently represented 14.9% of the total float. The days to cover reading ended the period at around eight.
Weatherford is among the companies with the most layoffs seen this year. The company’s shares were around 15% higher at the end of the two-week period, though they have pulled back somewhat since then. The share price was last seen at $4.37. 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.