September started off with back-to-back major hurricanes slamming into the United States, but the markets continued to trade at all-time highs throughout the month. A look at the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange shows some interesting moves between the September 15 and September 29 settlement dates.
Overall the short interest swings were mostly higher and mostly modest. However, short sellers continued to pile on flailing retailer Rite Aid after the most recent earnings disappointment. On the other hand, those sellers got out of the way on Weatherford, which slipped well down the list.
Note that the top six stocks on the list all had more than 125 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period. In fact, all the top 10 had short interest of more than 100 million shares.
Though the number of Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s (NYSE: CHK) shares short has risen in most periods so far this year, in the latest period it saw a short interest decline of more than 3% to more than 193.12 million. That still represented 21.6% of the company’s float. At the month’s end posted daily average trading volume, it would take about seven days to cover all the short positions.
At least one analyst saw significant upside in Chesapeake last month. Its share price ended the two weeks more than 7% higher, though it was up more than 10% at one point in the interval. The S&P 500 saw only a fractional gain between the settlement dates. The stock closed Tuesday’s trading at $3.91 a share, up from a recent 52-week low of $3.55. Now it is more than 44% lower year to date, and shares have changed hands as high as $8.20 in the past 52 weeks.
The more than 191.83 million AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) shares short on the most recent settlement date was more than 2% higher than two weeks earlier, and it followed a 5% gain in that previous period. The latest reading represented 3.1% of the float, and it was the highest level of short interest in at least a year. As of the end of last month, it would take around seven days to cover all short positions.
Two of AT&T’s rivals were reportedly holding merger talks again. In the first two weeks of September, short sellers watched the share price rise more than 5%, though it has pulled back a bit since then. The stock closed most recently at $38.50 a share, which was less than 5% lower than it was six months ago. The 52-week trading range for AT&T shares is $35.10 to $43.03.
A more than 13% pop brought the most recently reported number of Rite Aid Corp. (NYSE: RAD) shares short to more than 139.71 million on the most recent settlement date. That lifted it to the number four spot on the list. The latest reading was the easily the greatest level of short interest in the past year, as well as being 13.4% of the retailer’s total float. The average daily trading volume more than doubled from the prior period, and the days to cover fell to three.
The stock suffered in the wake of a disappointing quarterly report last month. Its shares ended the final two weeks of September more than 25% lower. A recovery afterward was short-lived, and the stock hit a new 52-week low of $1.83 a share on Tuesday. The shares are down more than 59% from six months ago. Rite Aid hit a 52-week high of $8.77 per share early in the year.