The 6 Most Shorted NYSE Stocks

November 10, 2016 by Trey Thoelcke

While the moves among the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange were mostly mild in the final weeks of October, ahead of the holiday shopping season and the presidential election, there were a few stand outs. Bank of America and Chesapeake Energy rose up the list between the October 14 and October 31 settlement dates, while short sellers grew somewhat wary of Ford.

Sprint held on to its title as the most shorted NYSE stock during the period.

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

Sprint

After retreating almost 4% in the previous period, short interest in Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) reversed course and grew more than 4% between the most recent settlement dates. The more than 168.47 million shares short reported totaled 26.6% of the total float. At the most current daily average, it would take about eight days to cover all short positions.

Unlike its peers, Sprint posted a net loss for its most recent quarter. Its share price ended the latest short interest period more than 12% lower than where it began it, and it pulled back a little more afterward. However, the shares are still up almost 96% year to date, and they closed most recently at $7.09. The stock hit a 52-week high of $7.20 on Wednesday. That is 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 9% in the latter two weeks of last month, bringing the reported number of shares short to more than 140.86 million. That represented 3.6% of the total float, which is down from a high of about 4.4% in mid-March. It would take more than four days to cover all short positions.

Ford posted mixed quarterly results during the period, but after the share price rose more than 2% it ended the two weeks down more than 1%. The S&P 500 slipped fractionally in that time. Ford shares have changed hands between $11.02 and $14.76 apiece in the past year. They were trading at $11.57 apiece on Tuesday’s close, which is down nearly 18% since the beginning of the year.

Vale

The number of Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE) shares short grew by almost 4.5 million during the period, or more than 3%, to almost 138.18 million. Note that before this, seven of the past nine periods had seen shrinking short interest. At the most recent average daily volume, it would take about four days to cover all short positions.

This Brazilian miner posted better-than-expected third-quarter results. Short sellers watched the share price increase about 24% during the short-interest period, as well as more since then. The stock closed most recently at $7.76. That is up almost 136% year to date but around 92% higher than a year ago. The share price has ranged from $2.13 to Wednesday’s $8.03 in the past 52 weeks.

Chesapeake Energy

Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) saw its short interest surge about 24% to more than 137.99 million shares by the end of October. That was 18.0% of the float, but note that short interest was more than 200 million shares early in the year. As of the most recent settlement date, it would still take more than two days to cover all the short positions.

During the period, Chesapeake held its first investor day presentation in two years. Short sellers watched the share price drop more than 16% between the settlement dates, though it was up more than 5% at one point. The stock closed most recently at $5.77 a share, up handily from the multiyear low of $1.50 early this year. The 52-week high of $8.15 was seen back in September.

Bank of America

A more than 9% rise in Bank of America Corp.’s (NYSE: BAC) number of shares short made it three periods in a row of rising short interest. The approximately 121.95 million shares short at the end of the latest period represented 1.2% of the money center bank’s float, a year-to-date high. At the latest daily average daily volume, the days to cover is more than one.

This bank posted better-than-expected third-quarter results last month. Its share price ended the two weeks about 3% higher, though it was up more than 5% at one point. The stock has changed hands between $10.99 and $18.05 a share in the past year, and it closed at $17.97 on Wednesday.

Freeport-McMoRan

The number of shares short in Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) shrank less than 2% to more than 119.41 million as of the most recent settlement date. Some 9.1% of the miner’s float was sold short by the end of the month, but note that short interest was more than 20% of float early in the year. It would take about four days to cover all short positions.

Freeport had a disappointing third-quarter report during the short interest period, and yet the share price rose more than 15% by month’s end. The stock climbed about 23% in the past week to close at $13.07 per share. That is up about 93% year to date. The 52-week low of $3.52 is well short of the 52-week high of $14.06.

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And the Rest

Rounding out the top 10 were Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). The standout here is AT&T, which saw a nearly 10% bump in short interest, while it shrank in the others.

Note that Weatherford International PLC (NYSE: WFT) and Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) had sharp increases in the number of their shares short, but not enough to left them into the top 10.