It may have been the time of “sell in May and go away,” but 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 May 13 and May 31 settlement dates, short interest moves among these stocks were mixed and largely in single-digit percentages.
The biggest mover was Baxter International Inc. (NYSE: BAX), which had leaped into the top 10 most shorted NYSE stocks in the previous period when its short interest doubled, but this time it dropped out of the list again as short sellers appeared to change their minds.
Note that the six most shorted NYSE stocks still all had more than 100 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.
The number of Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE) shares short grew by more than 15.18 million in the two weeks, or more than 8%, to more than 193.60 million, making it the most shorted NYSE stock. And that followed a nearly 10% gain in the previous period. At the most recent average daily volume, it would take about seven days to cover all short positions.
The Brazilian miner aims to sell more iron ore to China. Vale’s shares ended the short-interest period almost 5% lower, though they were up more than 4% at one point. The stock closed most recently at $4.62, still up more than 40% year to date, but also more than 32% lower than a year ago. The share price has ranged from $2.13 to $6.92 in the past 52 weeks.
As its short interest shrank more than 9% between settlement dates, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) slipped from its place at the top of the list. The more than 178.51 million shares short reported most recently totaled 28.5% of the float. The days to cover increased from 12 to 15 as the daily average volume declined.
Merrill Lynch was disappointed in Sprint’s most recent earnings report. Its share price rose more than 11% in the two-week period, and a little more since the settlement date. The S&P 500 gained less than 3% in the short interest period. The stock closed most recently at $3.81, or more than 5% higher than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range is $2.18 to $5.29.