After six weeks of uncertainty and high volatility, the markets seemed to begin to settle down in late February and many stocks began to recover. The most heavily shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq mostly saw their short interest dwindle between the February 12 and February 29 settlement dates. Yet a few stocks bucked that trend, notably Sirius XM, which had a double-digit rise in the number of its shares sold short.
Note that the four most shorted Nasdaq stocks still had more than 115,000 shares short by the end of the period.
After rising nearly 3% in the previous period, the short interest in Frontier Communications Corp. (NASDAQ: FTR) took back that gain and more, coming in at more than 170.45 million shares by the most recent settlement date. That was 14.7% of the telecom’s float. The days to cover dropped to about six as the average daily volume surged to a year-to-date high. Frontier was a top telecom pick at Merrill Lynch late in the month. Shares ended the short interest period up more than 27%, while the Nasdaq rose less than 4% in that time. The share price still is up more than 17% year to date. The stock closed most recently at $5.16, within a 52-week trading range of $3.81 to $7.60.
The more than 159.23 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares short at the end of February was nearly 14% higher than on the previous settlement date. That was the greatest level of short interest since last August, and it was 8.3% of the company’s float. At the current average daily volume, it would take more than four days to cover all short positions. Analysts also were cautious about Sirius after its most recent earnings. Still, the share price ended the two-week period about 8% higher, and it has risen about another 8% since then. The stock ended Wednesday at $3.96 a share, in a 52-week range of $3.29 to $4.20.
By the end of the month, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had more than 128.40 million shares short, which was down from 132.34 million two weeks earlier. The most recent reading totaled 19.9% of the company’s float. The days to cover rose to almost 14 as the average daily volume dropped to a year-to-date low. Unfortunately for AMD, forecasts for PC shipments remain soft. Short sellers watched the share price rise nearly 17% in the two-week period, and it rose even more afterward, before pulling back a bit this week. The shares closed most recently at $2.26, within a 52-week range of $1.61 to $3.06.
MannKind Corp.’s (NASDAQ: MNKD) short interest, at almost 117.26 million shares as of February 29, was down about 10% from the greatest number of shares short since last May on the prior settlement date. The most recent reading was 42.7% of the total float, and the days to cover dropped from more than 30 to less than 25. Founder Alfred Mann stepped down as executive chairman and then passed away in February. While the stock ended the two weeks about 2% higher, it was down almost 11% and up nearly 19% at times during the period. Shares are now down more than 18% year to date to $1.19. They hit a multiyear low of $0.64 last month. The 52-week high of $7.32 was seen last summer.
Approximately 80.54 million Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) shares were sold short as of the most recent settlement date. That was more than 1% higher than at the start of the period, it totaled 1.7% of the company’s float and it was the highest level of short interest so far this year. It would take a little more than three days to cover all short positions. Intel’s dividend growth impressed Jefferies late in the month, but shares ended the settlement period less than 3% higher. They closed at $30.87 on Wednesday, still down more than 10% year to date. The stock has changed hands between $24.87 and $35.59 per share in the past year.
Rounding out the top 10 were BlackBerry Ltd. (NASDAQ: BBRY), Huntington Bancshares Inc. (NASDAQ: HBAN), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO), Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN). Cisco Systems and Huntington Bancshares rose into the top 10 on short interest surges of 20 percent or more, while the number of Groupon shares short dropped sharply. Short sellers also continue to flee from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), which is now far from the top 10 on the Nasdaq, as of the most recent settlement date.