Investing

Insider Selling Light Despite Market Meltdown: Aetna, O'Reilly, Loews, DR Horton and More

Lee Jackson

That certainly was the kind of week investors like to forget. Slow summer trading and no liquidity means big-time sellers can punish the market. The good news is this past week’s sell-off may very well be the pause that the markets needed as we head into the fall. Insiders certainly did not appear to panic as the volume of selling was much lighter than buying this past week.

We cover insider selling every week at 24/7 Wall St., and we like to remind our readers that just because an individual or 10% institutional owner is selling stock, that is no cause for immediate alarm. Many top executives, and even directors, are compensated with stock and often sell just to diversify or purchase other assets.

Here are companies that reported notable insider selling this past week.

Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) has been on a huge roll this year, and a vice president at the giant health care provider decided to cash in. The executive sold a huge total of 177,087 shares of the stock at prices between $118.00 and $119.66. The total take from this big sale was a stunning $21 million. The shares were trading on Friday’s close at $115.60, so the timing seems solid.

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O’Reilly Automotive Inc. (NASDAQ: ORLY) is another stock that has had a very solid year, and the chairman of the board was a seller last week. He moved a total of 75,000 shares of the stock at $250.00 apiece. The total for the sale came to a whopping $18.8 million. The stock closed trading on Friday at $238.17, so another well-timed trade.

Knight Transportation Inc. (NYSE: KNX) had the executive chairman of the company selling shares this past week. He parted with a block of 500,000 shares of the stock at prices that ranged from $27.64 to $28.20. The total for the sale came to $13.9 million. The company operates as a short- to medium-haul truckload carrier of general commodities, primarily in the United States. Shares ended the week at $25.6, so here too a well-timed trade.

D.R. Horton Inc. (NYSE: DHI) is another company with the chairman selling stock last week. The man with his name on the door, Donald Horton, sold a total of 2.86 million shares at prices between $31.46 and $32.37. The total for the sale came to $9.1 million. D.R. Horton is engaged in the acquisition and development of land and the construction and sale of residential homes in 27 states and 79 markets in the United States under the names of D.R. Horton, America’s Builder, Express Homes, Emerald Homes and others. The stock was changing hands on Friday’s close at $31.01.

Loews Corp. (NYSE: L) had the co-chairman of the board also joining in the boardroom selling last week. He sold a total of 93,220 shares of the stock at prices that ranged from $39.00 to $39.02. The total for this sale came to $3.6 million. The primary business at the company is operating as a commercial property and casualty insurer, chiefly in the United States. Shares closed trading on Friday at $37.08, so another well-timed sale.

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These companies also reported insider selling this week: Hawaiian Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: HA), Ligand Pharmaceutical Inc. (NASDAQ: LGND), Robert Half Inc. (NYSE: RHI), Steel Dynamics Inc. (NASDAQ: STLD) and 2U Inc. (NASDAQ: TWOU).

The heavy selling in the market this past week may have caused alarm for some investors. The fact that insider selling volume was as tepid as it was should be somewhat comforting. We have written often this summer that the market has not seen a 10% correction for three years. This week’s selling may very well get that talking point off the books and set the stage for a solid run to the end of 2015.