Short interest through June 30 was released on Friday after markets closed, and we thought we would take a look at what short sellers are thinking about Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA). Short interest in Boeing fell 4.8%, compared with the June 15 reading, from 13.51 million shares short to 12.86 million. The new total represents about 1.9% of Boeing’s float.
Boeing’s stock posted a 52-week high of $158.83 on February 20. In the two-week period from February 14 to February 27, short interest dropped from 15.13 million shares to 13.31 million shares.
On February 23, in note to clients, Goldman Sachs cut its rating on Boeing from Neutral to Sell, saying that low fuel prices could lead to lower demand for new planes. The analysts also noted that Boeing’s stock price is “highly correlated to new aircraft orders.” According to Business Insider, Goldman provided more detail for its ratings cut:
We think medium-term free cash flow expectations for Boeing are too high, at a time where the 787 deferred target keeps moving higher in large chunks. We also see reach forward loss risk on the 787. We see better opportunity both through-cycle and today, in the higher margin Aerospace supply chain.
Goldman has maintained its Sell rating, bucking the overall view of 14 Buy or Strong Buy ratings and seven Hold ratings. Since February, short interest in Boeing hit a peak of 16.1 million shares in the April 15 reporting period and a low of 12.67 million shares in the May 15 period. Short interest for the period ended June 30 is the third lowest in the past 12 months.
From its peak in February, Boeing’s stock price has dropped more than 12% and closed Friday at its lowest point since that peak at $138.72.
Boeing is scheduled to release second-quarter results on July 22. Consensus estimates call for earnings per share of $2.12 on revenues of $24.1 billion. The company’s second-quarter deliveries totaled 197 commercial jets, up from 181 in the first quarter of 2014. The issue, however, is free cash flow. It is very likely that Boeing pulled cash flow forward when it reported fourth-quarter 2014 results and that has to have an impact on cash flow for this year. The company has been adamant, though, that free cash flow will total around $9 billion for the full fiscal year.
Short sellers appear to be getting cautious going into earnings. The number of deliveries is on target to surpass the company’s estimate of 750 to 755 for the full year, and better-than-expected showing in the second quarter is not out of the question.