Investing

The 5 Most Shorted NYSE Stocks at the End of February

Among the most shorted stocks trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Petrobras and Pfizer saw the largest declines in the percentage of shares short between the February 13 and February 27 settlement dates. In both cases, though, that followed much larger surges in the previous periods.

Note that all of the top five 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 3.6% in the latter two weeks of the month to around 316.56 million. That represents 6.1% of the float. At the current average daily volume, it would more than 11 days to cover all short positions. Note that short interest has been rising since last September. Also, the most recent period does not include the announcement that AT&T will be dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Shares ended the two weeks to February 27 about where they started. They closed Tuesday at $32.78, more than 2% lower than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range is $32.07 to $37.48.

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There was a 3.2% rise in the short interest in Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE) during the period. That brought the number of shares short to more than 202.83 million, which was highest level it has been in at least a year. It would take more than six days to cover all short positions. Vale fell short of earnings estimates in February, and its shares retreated almost 8% during the two-week short-interest period, as well as more than 17% since. Shares closed Tuesday at $6.14, in a 52-week range of $6.13 to $15.59.

Pfizer Inc.’s (NYSE: PFE) short interest retreated 16.8% to more than 172.45 million shares in the latter two weeks of the month. That was 2.7% of the float, but it followed the more than 207% surge in short interest in the previous period. The days to cover rose from more than five to about seven. Pfizer is a top dividend pick at Merrill Lynch, and the share price pulled back about 1% in the two-week period, and another 1.5% since. Shares closed Tuesday at $33.78, in a 52-week range of $27.51 to $34.97.

Short interest in Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) fell nearly 5% to more than 117.66 million shares, though that was the second period in a row of more than 100,000 shares short. That mid-month reading totaled 2.8% of the company’s float. The days to cover swelled to around eight. Verizon remains a Warren Buffet favorite. The share price slipped a bit and recovered in the two weeks, but it has dropped almost 4% since. The stock closed at $47.51 on Tuesday. Shares have traded between $45.09 and $53.66 in the past year.

Transocean Ltd.’s (NYSE: RIG) short interest has fallen in only one of the past 12 periods. About 5.15 million more shares were short by the end of last month, bringing the total to more than 116.21 shares. That was the highest level of short interest in a year and 33.3% of the total float. The days to cover was about nine. Fourth-quarter results were better than expected, but the share price dropped more than 15% in the two weeks, as well as more than 11% more since to close at $14.27 on Tuesday. Shares have traded between $14.14 and $46.12 in the past year.

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Rounding out the top 10 are Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (NYSE: PBR), J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), SunEdison Inc. (NYSE: SUNE) and General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE). Of these, Petrobras and Bank of America saw double-digit declines in short interest as the month wound down. SunEdison was new to the top 10 in this period.

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