As the rough first quarter wound to a close, it appeared that the markets were finally headed north again. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 had returned to the black for the year, though the Nasdaq still lagged. And the interest in the five most heavily shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq declined between the March 15 and March 31 settlement dates. Leading that trend was AMD, with a double-digit percentage fall in the number of its shares short in the period.
Note that the four most shorted Nasdaq stocks still had more than 110 million shares short by the end of the period.
The more than 163.16 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares short at the end of March was less than 2% lower than on the previous settlement date, which had seen the highest level of short interest in the past year. The most recent reading was 8.5% of the company’s float. At the current average daily volume, it would take more than six days to cover all short positions. Looking for growth, Sirius has turned its attention to the used car market. The share price ended the two-week period less than 2% higher, though it has retreated another 2% or so since then. The stock ended Monday at $3.81 a share, within a 52-week trading range of $3.29 to $4.20.
For the third period in a row, the short interest in Frontier Communications Corp. (NASDAQ: FTR) has dropped, most recently about 4% to more than 157.69 million shares. That was 13.6% of the telecom’s float, as of the most recent settlement date. The days to cover grew to about 12 as the average daily volume fell to a year-to-date low. Merrill Lynch recently saw Frontier’s dividend as safe. Shares ended the short interest period up more than 8%, while the Nasdaq rose about 3% in that time. The share price still is up more than 12% year to date. The stock closed most recently at $5.24, within a 52-week range of $3.81 to $7.50.
MannKind Corp.’s (NASDAQ: MNKD) short interest, at almost 112.04 million shares on March 31, was down around 7% from the prior settlement date. That was the fewest shares short since the beginning of the year, but it was still 40.8% of the total float. The days to cover dropped by about half to 10, as the daily average volume surged in those two weeks. Excitement over Afrezza boosted shares during the period. The stock ended the two weeks less than 15% higher, though it was up more than 53% at one point. Shares are now less than 5% higher year to date to $1.52, still well up from the multiyear low of $0.64 earlier this year. The 52-week high of $7.32 was seen last summer.
By the end of the month, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had almost 110.35 million shares short, which was down from almost 135.83 million on the previous settlement date. The most recent reading totaled 17.0% of the company’s float. The days to cover remained more than eight, even though the average daily volume declined somewhat. Virtual reality initiatives that AMD recently unveiled have pleased investors. Short sellers watched the share price rise more than 14% during the two weeks, though it has retreated somewhat since then. The shares closed most recently at $2.76, within a 52-week range of $1.61 to $3.06.
More than 88.76 million Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) shares were sold short as of the most recent settlement date. That was about 3% fewer than at the start of the period, it totaled 1.9% of the company’s float and it was the second highest level of short interest so far this year. With the average daily volume still near a year-to date low, it would take more than four days to cover all short positions. Recent weakness in the dollar is seen as helping companies like Intel. Twice between the settlement dates, the shares gained more than 3% but pulled back. They closed at $31.67 on Monday, now down about 8% 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 NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA), BlackBerry Ltd. (NASDAQ: BBRY), Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) Novavax Inc. (NASDAQ: NVAX) and Huntington Bancshares Inc. (NASDAQ: HBAN). Except for Huntington, these bucked the wider trend toward shrinking short interest. In fact NVIDIA and Micron saw surges in the numbers of their shares short. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) also bucked the trend with a modest gain, but it remains outside the top 10 most shorted Nasdaq stocks.