After a rough first two months of the year for the markets, things finally started to look up in March, though plenty of uncertainty remained. And interest in the most heavily shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq rose, for the most part, between the February 29 and March 15 settlement dates. Leading that trend was Intel, with a double-digit increase in the number of its shares sold short. On the other hand, Frontier Communications bucked that trend, allowing Sirius XM to reclaim the title of the most shorted Nasdaq stock.
Note that the four most shorted Nasdaq stocks all had more than 120,000 shares short by the end of the period.
The approximately 165.83 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares short by the middle of March was less than 5% higher than on the previous settlement date. That was the highest level of short interest in the past year, and it was 8.6% of the company’s float. At the current average daily volume, it would take more than four days to cover all short positions. Looking for growth, Sirius has been turning its attention to the used car market. The share price ended the two-week period about 5% higher, though it has retreated about 2% in the past week. The stock ended Thursday at $3.87 a share, in a 52-week range of $3.29 to $4.20.
After rising more than 3% in the previous period, the short interest in Frontier Communications Corp. (NASDAQ: FTR) dropped about as much again, coming in at more than 164.47 million shares on the most recent settlement date. That was 14.2% of the telecom’s float. The days to cover grew to about eight as the average daily volume fell from a year-to-date high. Citigroup downgraded Frontier to Sell early this month. Shares ended the short interest period down more than 5%, while the Nasdaq rose a little more than 1% in that time. The share price still is up almost 13% year to date. The stock closed most recently at $5.27, within a 52-week trading range of $3.81 to $7.50.
By the middle of the month, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had around 135.83 million shares short, which was up from 128.40 million two weeks earlier. The most recent reading totaled 21.0% of the company’s float. The days to cover shrank from nearly 15 to less than nine as the average daily volume bounced from a year-to-date low. Virtual reality initiatives that AMD recently unveiled pleased investors. Short sellers watched the share price rise about 25% during the two weeks but end the period up more than 16%. It has risen again since then. The shares closed most recently at $2.79, within a 52-week range of $1.61 to $3.06.
MannKind Corp.’s (NASDAQ: MNKD) short interest, at about 120.54 million shares as of March 15, was up less than 3% from the prior settlement date, but still less than half the number at the beginning of the year. The most recent reading was 43.9% of the total float, and the days to cover remained at about 20. MannKind offered up disappointing fourth-quarter results near the end of the period. Yet the stock ended the two weeks more than 41% higher, though it was up more than 53% at one point. Shares are now more than 45% higher year to date to $2.11, well up from the multiyear low of $0.64 earlier this year. The 52-week high of $7.32 was seen last summer.
More than 91.51 million Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) shares were sold short as of the most recent settlement date. That was more than 14% higher than at the start of the period, it totaled 1.9% of the company’s float and it was the highest level of short interest so far this year. With the average daily volume at a year-to date low, it would take more than four days to cover all short positions. Intel is still a Dividend Ruler pick at RBC, and shares ended the settlement period more than 4% higher. They closed at $31.88 on Thursday, now down more than 7% 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), Novavax Inc. (NASDAQ: NVAX), Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) and NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA). The big mover here was Huntington Bancshares, with a nearly 11% rise in the number of shares short. Cisco and NVIDIA saw marginal declines in short interest, while short sellers fled from Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO), allowing them to fall from the top 10.
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