The 6 Most Shorted NYSE Stocks: Bank of America on the Move

September 13, 2016 by Trey Thoelcke

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While the markets were in a holding pattern ahead of the Labor Day holiday, albeit near all-time highs, the short interest moves in the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange were mostly mild between the August 15 and August 31 settlement dates. Bucking that trend was Bank of America, in which short sellers piled on for the second consecutive period.

Others on the list saw modest to miniscule declines in the numbers of their shares sold short. But note that all the top six stocks on the list still had more than 110 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.

Sprint

After short interest in Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) dwindled for four periods in a row, it took a breather most recently and stayed essentially flat between the settlement dates. The approximately 153.03 million shares short reported at the end of August totaled 24.2% of the float. The days to cover rose from nine to 11 as the daily average volume continued to shrink in the final weeks of the month.

Sprint came in third in a recent study of wireless service. Its share price ended the short interest period about where it began it, though it has jumped more than 11% since the settlement date. After recently hitting a 52-week high of $7.03, the stock closed at $6.92 on Monday. The 52-week low is $2.18.

Ford

Following a 9% or so gain in the previous period, the short interest in Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) pulled back more than 5%, bringing the number of its shares short to more than 152.32 million by the end of the month. That represented 3.9% of the total float, still down from a high of about 4.4% in mid-March. It would take about six days to cover all short positions.

Ford pickups recovered some market share in August. The company’s share price increased less than 2% in the two-week period, while the S&P 500 slipped fractionally. Ford stock has changed hands between $11.02 and $15.84 a share in the past year. The shares were trading at $12.70 on Monday’s close, which was down almost 10% year to date.

Vale

The number of Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE) shares short retreated by a mere 335,000 or so during the period, to more than 128.12 million. However, note that it was the sixth period in a row of shrinking short interest. At the most recent average daily volume, it would take about six days to cover all short positions.

This Brazilian miner has a new iron ore mine and processing plant coming online in the second half of 2016. But Vale’s shares pulled back about 9% during the short-interest period, though they were up about 3% early on. The stock closed most recently at $5.40, which is up around 64% year to date but less than 8% higher than a year ago. The share price has ranged from $2.13 to $6.26 in the past year.

GE

After retreating by more than double-digit percentages in the previous three periods from the highest level year to date, the short interest decline in General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) slowed to less than 2%, landing at more than 116.43 million shares at the end of the month. That was 1.3% of the iconic conglomerate’s float, and it would take more than five days to cover all short positions.

Warren Buffett still has a stake in GE. The share price ended the two-week short interest period about where it began, while the Dow Jones was in the red in that time. GE shares also were essentially flat in the past week and ended most recently at $30.49. They have traded between $24.26 and $33.00 in the past 52 weeks.

Bank of America

A nearly 12% surge in Bank of America Corp.’s (NYSE: BAC) number of shares short came on top of a 20% or so gain in the previous period. The approximately 112.91 million shares short at the most recent settlement date represented 1.1% of the money center bank’s float, a year-to-date high. At the latest average daily volume, the days to cover is more than one.

This bank made the 24/7 Wall St. Customer Service Hall of Shame list during the period. Its share price ended the two weeks more than 7% higher, though it has retreated a bit since then. The shares have changed hands between $10.99 and $18.09 in the past year, and the stock closed at $15.90 a share on Monday.

Chesapeake Energy

Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) saw its short interest pull back less than 8% to around 110.17 million shares by the end of August. That was 14.4% of the float, the lowest level so far this year. As of the most recent settlement date, it still would take about two days to cover all short positions, even though the average daily volume shrank somewhat.

Investors were not pleased to see Chesapeake take on new debt in the period. Yet, short sellers watched the share price rise more than 15% between the settlement dates. The stock closed most recently at $8.05, up handily from the multiyear low of $1.50 early this year. The 52-week high of $9.55 was seen last fall.

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And the Rest

Rounding out the top 10 were Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA), Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA), Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) and Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG). The biggest mover here was Freeport, with a bump of more than 8%, while there was hardly any change at all for Alcoa and Transocean.

Lingering outside the top 10 were Host Hotels & Resorts Inc. (NYSE: HST), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T).