With a rough first quarter in the rear-view mirror, the markets were finally headed north again, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 having returned to the black for the first time since the beginning of the year. Judging by the moves in the most heavily shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the March 31 and April 15 settlement dates, short sellers became more cautious.
While short interest shrank for most of these stocks, a couple bucked the trend. Sirius XM saw a bump in the number of its shares short, which kept it at the top of the list. Intel’s short interest was essentially the same as at the end of March. The largest decline among the top five was in the shares of biopharmaceutical company MannKind.
Note that the four most shorted Nasdaq stocks still had more than 100 million shares short by the end of the period.
The more than 171.21 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares short by the middle of the month was nearly 5% higher than on the previous settlement date and was the highest level of short interest in the past year. Some 8.9% of the company’s float was sold short. At the current average daily volume, it would take four days to cover all short positions. Sirius said its subscriber base surpassed 30 million in the first quarter. The share price ended the two-week period less than 2% lower, though it has down more than 3% at one point. The stock ended Tuesday at $3.97 a share, within a 52-week trading range of $3.29 to $4.20.
For the fourth period in a row, the short interest in Frontier Communications Corp. (NASDAQ: FTR) has dropped, most recently by 4% or so to more than 150.41 million shares. That was 13.0% of the telecom’s float, as of the most recent settlement date. The days to cover slipped to 11 as the average daily volume rose from a year-to-date low. Merrill Lynch still likes Frontier for its dividend. Shares ended the short interest period down more than 3%, while the Nasdaq rose more than 1% in that time. The share price still is up about 20% year to date. The stock closed most recently at $5.61, within a 52-week range of $3.81 to $7.05.
By the mid-April, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had almost 106.85 million shares short, which was down from almost 110.35 million on the previous settlement date. The most recent reading totaled 16.5% of the company’s float. The days to cover rose to 11 as the average daily volume dropped off. AMD still faces headwinds from the declining PC market. Short sellers watched the share price retreat more than 5% during the two weeks, though it surged more than 33% afterward, reaching a new 52-week high of $3.99 last week. The shares closed most recently at $3.66, well above the 52-week low of $1.61 from last summer.
MannKind Corp.’s (NASDAQ: MNKD) short interest, at nearly 103.74 million shares most recently, was down more than 7% from the prior settlement date. That was the fewest shares short in almost a year, but it was still 37.7% of the total float. The days to cover rose to 15, as the daily average volume dropped sharply. MannKind regained marketing rights to Afrezza from Sanofi during the period. The stock ended the two weeks less than 2% higher, though it was up nearly 15% at one point. Shares are now more than 11% higher year to date to $1.62, still well up from the multiyear low of $0.64 earlier this year. The 52-week high of $7.32 was seen last summer.
Nearly 88.80 million Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) shares were sold short as of the most recent settlement date. That was some 35,500 more 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 at a year-to date low, it would take four days to cover all short positions. The short interest period closed before Intel announced earnings and layoffs. The share price ended the two weeks less than 3% lower than the settlement date, and it has pulled back a little more since then. The stock closed at $31.40 on Tuesday, down almost 9% 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), Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU), NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA), Huntington Bancshares Inc. (NASDAQ: HBAN) and Novavax Inc. (NASDAQ: NVAX). The trend toward shrinking short interest continued here, led by the nearly 15% drop in the number of NVIDIA shares short. Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) did see a modest increase in its shares short, but not enough to lift it into the top 10 most shorted Nasdaq stocks.