The nearly eight-year old bull market endures, with markets recently hitting all-time highs. And how are short sellers reacting? Moves in the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange between the January 31 and February 15 settlement dates were mixed and mostly mild.
However, there was a new king of the hill among the most shorted NYSE stocks, as the sellers piled on pharmaceutical giant Pfizer during the period.
Note that the top five stocks on the list all had more than 110 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.
The approximately 137.21 million Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) shares short by the middle of February was a whopping 300% more than on the prior settlement date. It represented 2.3% of the conglomerate’s total float. Note that was highest level of short interest since last April, and it was over 300 million last March. As of the latest settlement date, it would take more than five days to cover all short positions.
Pfizer’s recent earnings miss was due in part to the impact of acquisitions. Its shares were up more than 5% by the end of the most recent short interest period, while the Dow was more than 3% higher in that time. The stock closed Monday at $34.28, which also was more than 5% higher than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range is $28.74 to $37.39.
After about a 9% gain in Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s (NYSE: CHK) short interest in January, it saw another 7% or so rise in the first two weeks of this month. The around 119.37 million shares short reported most recently were 13.6% of the float. Note that short interest was about 234 million shares a year ago. As of the most recent settlement date, the days to cover reading was about four.
New guidance mid-month month helped buoy shares. Between the latest settlement dates, the share price increased almost 2% but then ended up in the red by about 2%. The stock pulled back more afterward and closed most recently at $5.62. That was still up handily from the multiyear low of $2.53 almost a year ago, but lower than the 52-week high of $8.20 seen in mid-December.
The short interest has declined in six of the previous seven periods. The number of Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) shares short retreated by less than 16,000 shares between the most recent settlement dates, slipping further from the top spot on the list. The more than 119.26 million shares reported totaled 18.9% of the float. The days to cover remained at about six during those two weeks.
Like its peers, Sprint now has an unlimited data plan. Sprint’s share price ended the two weeks a little more than 1% lower than where it began, though it was down more than 9% at one point. The share price has climbed less than 6% year to date and closed most recently at $8.91. The stock hit a 52-week high of $9.65 earlier this year, well up from the 52-week low of $3.08 almost a year ago.
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