The 6 Most Shorted NYSE Stocks

October 26, 2016 by Trey Thoelcke

New York Stock Exchange
Source: Thinkstock
After two periods of wildly surging short interest in Procter & Gamble, short sellers had enough and fled the stock between the September 30 and October 14 settlement dates, allowing it to nearly drop back out of the top 10 most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

So Sprint rose back to the top of the list earlier this month, despite a modest decline in short interest. Note that the number of GE shares short also dropped sharply in the period.

The top six stocks on the list all had more than 115 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.

Sprint

After popping more than 8% in the previous period, short interest in Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) retreated almost 4% between the most recent settlement dates. The approximately 161.07 million shares short reported totaled 25.4% of the float. The days to cover remained more than nine, even as the daily average volume shrank somewhat in the initial weeks of the month.

24/7 Wall St. took a good look at Sprint’s sky-high valuation last month. The share price ended the short interest period about 6% higher than where it began it, though it was down more than 2% at one point. The shares are still up almost 80% year to date and closed most recently at $6.50. The stock hit a 52-week high of $7.16 last week, well up from the 52-week low of $2.18 early in the year.

Ford

The short interest in Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) pulled back more than 5%, ending two straight periods of a declining number of shares short and bringing the number most recently to around 155.98 million. That represented 4.0% of the total float, down from a high of about 4.4% in mid-March. It still would take about five days to cover all short positions.

It may be the best time in eight years to buy a pickup like the Ford F-150, but after the share price rose more than 3% it ended the two weeks down more than 1%. The S&P 500 slipped less than 2% in that time. Ford shares have changed hands between $11.02 and $15.15 apiece in the past year. They were trading at $11.85 on Tuesday’s close, which is down nearly 16% year to date.

Vale

The number of Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE) shares short grew by around 8.8 million during the period, or around 7%, to almost 133.69 million. Note that before this, seven of the past eight periods had seen shrinking short interest. At the most recent average daily volume, it would take about five days to cover all short positions.

This Brazilian miner still intends to sell off its fertilizer business. Vale’s shares grew more than 7% but gave up most of that gain during the short-interest period. They closed most recently at $6.79. That is up more than 106% year to date but around 58% higher than a year ago. The share price has ranged from $2.13 to $6.83 in the past 52 weeks.

Freeport-McMoRan

The number of shares short in Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) rose about 2% to more than 120.94 million as of the most recent settlement date. Some 9.2% of the miner’s float was sold short after the first two weeks of the month, but note that short interest was more than 20% of float early in the year. Here too, it would take about five days to cover all short positions.

Freeport sold assets in California during the short interest period, and short sellers watched the shares fall about 11% by mid-month. However, they have recovered much of that ground since and closed most recently at $10.55 per share. That is up almost 56% year to date. The 52-week low is $3.52, well short of the 52-week high of $14.06.

Alibaba

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) saw its short interest dwindle almost 3% to more than 118.75 million shares by mid-October. That was 4.8% of the float, still about the highest level in the past year. As of the most recent settlement date, it would take more than nine days to cover all short positions, after the average daily volume shrank somewhat.

During the period, Alibaba announced a collaboration with AMD, another heavily shorted stock. Short sellers watched the share price rise more than 2% between the settlement dates but end down more than 3%. The stock closed most recently at $104.22, which is more than 28% higher year to date. The 52-week range is $59.25 to $109.87.

GE

Echoing the retreats by more than double-digit percentages back in the July and early August periods, the short interest in General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) plunged by nearly 21%, landing at more than 116.06 million shares by the middle of month. That was 1.3% of the iconic conglomerate’s float, and it would take more than four days to cover all short positions.

GE also is likely to stay afloat if the dollar weakens next year. The share price ended the two-week short interest period more than 2% lower, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down nearly 1% in that time. GE shares recovered a bit afterward, but they ended most recently at $28.65. They have traded between $27.10 and $33.00 in the past year.

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And the Rest

Rounding out the top 10 were Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG) and finally Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG). Besides P&G, Bank of America was the other mover here, with a 17% rise in the number of its shares short in the period.

A more than 71% drop in short interest took Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) out of the top 50 most shorted NYSE stocks altogether, but with virtually no change in the number of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) shares short, it continues to linger outside the top 10.