Among most shorted stocks trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Chesapeake Energy, Petrobras and Vale all saw the double-digit percentage increases in their shares short between the February 27 and March 13 settlement dates. Pfizer and Verizon, on the other hand, had notable declines in their short interest.
All of the top five had more than 110,000 shares short at the end of the two-week period.
The number of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) shares short increased marginally in the first two weeks of the month to around 317.99 million. That represents 6.1% of the float. At the current average daily volume, it would take about 13 days to cover all short positions. Note that short interest has been rising since last September. During the most recent period it was announced that AT&T was to be dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Shares pulled back more than 5% in the two weeks to March 13. They closed Tuesday at $33.07, only marginally lower than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range is $32.07 to $37.48.
There was an 11.8% surge in the short interest in Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE) during the period. That brought the number of shares short to more than 226.70 million, which was highest level it has been in at least a year. It would take around six days to cover all short positions. Merrill Lynch downgraded Vale shares in March, and its shares tumbled more than 21% during the two-week short-interest period, though it has gained about 8% since. Shares closed Tuesday at $6.29, in a 52-week range of $5.63 to $15.59.
Pfizer Inc.’s (NYSE: PFE) short interest retreated 9.2% to about 156.56 million shares in the initial two weeks of the month. That was 2.5% of the float, and it followed an almost 17% drop in short interest in the previous period. The days to cover was about six. Pfizer was a top pick at Credit Suisse, and the share price pulled back about 1% in the two-week period but has recovered since. Shares closed Tuesday at $34.52, in a 52-week range of $27.51 to $35.45.
Transocean Ltd.’s (NYSE: RIG) short interest was essentially flat in the period, with a mid-month reading of more than 115.67 shares. That was the second highest level of short interest in a year, and it represented 33.1% of the total float. The days to cover rose to about 11. Low oil prices have pressed the share price, which dropped more than 15% in the two weeks. However, it has bounced back more than 10% since to close at $14.83 on Tuesday. Shares have traded between $13.28 and $46.12 in the past year.
Short interest in Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) jumped 57.4% to more than 110.73 million shares, by far the greatest number of shares short in the past year. That was 16.9% of the company’s float, and the days to cover was about four. The share price printed a series of new 52-week lows during the two-week settlement period, falling more than 17%. Since that time, it has recovered more than 3%, and the stock closed at $14.26 on Tuesday. Shares have traded between $13.38 and $29.92 in the past year.
Rounding out the top 10 are Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (NYSE: PBR), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC). Of these, Verizon was the only one that saw a decline in short interest. The rising short interest in Petrobras was greatest, at a bit more than 10%.
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