As the time of “sell in May and go away” arrived, it seems the short sellers were neither strongly for nor against the notion, as least as far as the most heavily shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange are concerned. Between the April 29 and May 13 settlement dates, short interest moves among these stocks were mixed and largely in single-digit percentages.
However, one medical supply company stood out, as short sellers piled on Baxter International in the first two weeks of the month.
Note that the five most shorted NYSE stocks still all had more than 120 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.
Though its short interest rose less than 2% between settlement dates, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) held on to its place at the top of the list again. The more than 196.74 million shares short reported most recently totaled 31.5% of the float. The days to cover slipped from 14 to 12 as the daily average volume rose.
Merrill Lynch was disappointed in Sprint’s most recent earnings report. Its share price jumped about 7% early in the two-week period but gave up nearly all that gain by the settlement date. The S&P 500 retreated almost 1% in that time. The stock closed most recently at $3.52, or almost 3% lower than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range is $2.18 to $5.29.
The number of Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE) shares short grew by more than 16.01 million in the two weeks, or nearly 10%, to more than 178.42 million. At the most recent average daily volume, it would take about five days to cover all short positions. The Brazilian miner saw a downgrade earlier this month.
Vale’s shares ended the short-interest period more than 27% lower, and they have slipped another 5% or so since. The stock closed most recently at $3.91, still up almost 18% year to date, but also more than 40% lower than a year ago. The share price has ranged from $2.13 to $6.93 in the past 52 weeks.
After retreating less than 3% in the previous period, short interest in Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) fell a further 6% or so, bringing the number of its shares short to more than 144.08 million at the end of the settlement period. That represented 3.7% of the total float. That was the third period in a row of decline, after the prior eight straight periods of rising short interest. It would take about five days to cover all short positions.
Ford F-150 pickups continue to be wildly popular. Yet the share price retreated more than 2% during the period, though it recovered a little afterward. Ford shares have changed hands between $10.44 and $15.84 apiece in the past year. They were trading at $13.29 on Tuesday’s close, down more than 5% year to date.