The stocks at the top of the list of most shorted on the New York Stock Exchange saw rising short interest between the January 15 and January 30 settlement dates. That was particularly true of Brazilian miner Vale, while Brazilian oil giant Petrobras saw the largest decline in the number of shares short among those featured here.
Note that the four most shorted NYSE stocks still each had more than 100,000 shares short at the end of the two-week period.
The number of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) shares short increased almost 5% in the final two weeks of the month to more than 302.78 million. That represents 5.8% of the total float. At the current average daily volume, it would take about nine days to cover all short positions. Note that short interest has been rising since last September. During the most recent short interest period, AT&T reported better-than-expected revenues for its most recent quarter, but shares ended the two-week period only fractionally higher. They closed Tuesday at $34.85, less than 4% higher than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range is $31.76 to $37.48.
There was a 20% jump in the short interest in Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE) during the period. That brought the number of shares short to more than 168.02 million, which was still well fewer than in mid-December. It would take about six days to cover all short positions. Competitor Cliffs Natural Resources suspended its dividend during the two-week short-interest period, and Vale shares ended more than 6% lower in that time. Shares closed Tuesday at $7.29, in a 52-week range of $6.69 to $15.59.
After an 8% rise in the previous period, Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG) saw a more than 2% gain in short interest to more than 113.19 million shares, at a time when the U.S. rig count dropped to a multiyear low. That end of the month reading totaled 32.5% of the company’s float, and it was the tenth consecutive period of increasing short interest. The days to cover swelled to about nine. The share price jumped more than 13% in the two weeks, and almost 11% since, and the stock closed at $19.16 on Tuesday. Shares have traded between $14.50 and $46.12 in the past year.
Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (NYSE: PBR), better known as Petrobras, saw the number of its shares short retreat by more than 8.54 million from mid-month to almost 100.03 million by the end of January. That was a decline of nearly 8% and represents 2.7% of the total float. At the current average daily volume, it would take more than two days to cover all short positions. A recent shakeup at the top of the petro-giant failed to allay investor concerns. Shares ended the two-week short interest period more than 7% lower and tried unsuccessfully to recover since. They closed Tuesday at $6.23, in a 52-week range of $5.79 to $20.94.
J.C. Penney Co. Inc.’s (NYSE: JCP) short interest fell more than 5% to almost 93.67 million in the latter two weeks of the month. That was 31.2% of the float, and the lowest number of shares short since last September. The days to cover rose from less than five to about 10. We wondered during the period if the struggling retailer had the will to close enough stores get back on track. The share price retreated less than 4% in the two-week period, though it has risen more than 8% since. Shares closed Tuesday at $8.05, in a 52-week range of $5.22 to $11.30.
Rounding out the top 10 are Cemex SAB de C.V. (NYSE: CX), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), Exelon Corp. (NYSE: EXC) and Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI). Of these, only GE saw an increase in the number of shares short, and that by only a little more than 1%.