The 5 Most Shorted NYSE Stocks at the End of Q1

Wall Street/NYSEAmong most shorted stocks trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Chesapeake Energy and Petrobras once again saw sharp increases in their short interest between the March 13 and March 31 settlement dates. On the other hand, short sellers fled from Pfizer and Verizon for the second period in a row.

All of the top five had more than 120,000 shares short at the end of the two-week period.

The number of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) shares short increased marginally in the final two weeks of the month to around 320.91 million. That represents 6.2% of the float. At the current average daily volume, it would take about 12 days to cover all short positions. Note that short interest has been rising since last September. During the period, we wondered if it was finally safe to buy AT&T stock. Shares gained 2.5% then gave it up in the two weeks to March 31. The stock closed Friday at $32.77, only 2.4% 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 5.8% decline in the short interest in Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE) during the period. That brought the number of shares short to more than 213.57 million, which was the second highest level in the past year. It would take around eight days to cover all short positions. Vale’s CEO was nominated to become the Petrobras chairman in late March, and its shares slipped 2.9% during the two-week short-interest period. The have gained 6.9% since, though. Shares closed most recently at $6.04, in a 52-week range of $5.45 to $15.00.

Short interest in Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) jumped 22.4% to more than 135.55 million shares, by far the greatest number of shares short in the past year. That was 20.8% of the company’s float, and the days to cover rose to about six. The chairman bought a million shares late in the two-week settlement period. The stock increased 2.6% between the settlement dates. Since that time, it has added more than 5%, and the stock closed at $14.93 on Friday. Shares have traded between $13.38 and $29.92 in the past year.

Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (NYSE: PBR), better known as Petrobras, saw the number of its shares short gain 16.8% by the end of month. That 128.40 million was more than double the short interest in the year-ago period. At the current average daily volume, it would take about three days to cover all short positions. Moody’s cut the stock to junk, and shares grew nearly 20% in the two-week short interest period. They have increased nearly 29% more since the most recent settlement date. The stock ended last week at $7.75, in a 52-week range of $4.90 to $20.94.

After a 9% drop in the previous period, Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) short interest retreated another 18.2% to about 128.13 million shares in the latter two weeks of the month. That was 2.0% of the float. The days to cover decreased to about four. Pfizer was one of the top performing stocks so far in 2015, and the share price rose 2.3% in the two-week period and a little more since. Shares closed Tuesday at $35.44, in a 52-week range of $27.51 to $35.47.

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Rounding out the top 10 were Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP), SunEdison Inc. (NYSE: SUNE) and Exelon Corp. (NYSE: EXC). Of these, Verizon was the only one that saw a significant change, an almost 13% drop in short interest. In addition, just missing the cut, despite rising short interest, was Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU).

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