Even as the market’s bull run is approaching nine years old, the markets have continued to reach new all-time highs. A look at the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange suggests that short sellers were starting to load up on a few of their favorites between the October 13 and October 31 settlement dates, including the top of the heap, AT&T.
Overall the moves were mixed in the latest period, but among those at the top of the list, upswings were stronger than the downward moves. Along with AT&T, short sellers also piled into oilfield services provider Weatherford and broadband provider CenturyLink late last month.
Note that the top six stocks on the list all had more than 130 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.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) once again tops the list, with nearly 233.07 million shares short on the most recent settlement date. That was about a 23% jump from two weeks earlier, resuming its upward trend after the pause in the previous period. The latest reading represented 3.8% 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 still would take around five days to cover all short positions.
Perhaps AT&T’s uninspiring quarterly results encouraged the short sellers. In the final two weeks of October, those sellers watched the share price fall about 6%. It has started to recover in the past week, though. The stock hit a new 52-week low of $32.55 per share this week and ended Thursday at $34.00 a share. The share price is about 11% lower than six months ago. AT&T shares reached its 52-week high of $43.03 per share back at the beginning of the year.
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 4% to more than 171.71 million. That still represented 19.2% of the company’s float. At the posted daily average trading volume on the settlement date, it would take about eight days to cover all the short positions.
We wondered recently whether Chesapeake has fallen into a death spiral. While its share price ended the two weeks fractionally higher, at one point in the period it was almost 3% lower. The S&P 500 saw a fractional gain between the settlement dates. The stock closed Thursday’s trading at $4.11 a share, which is almost 24% lower than six months ago. The 52-week low of $3.41 was seen during the short interest period. Shares have changed hands as high as $8.20 in the past year.
After more than 31% pop in the prior period, the reported number of Rite Aid Corp. (NYSE: RAD) shares short retreated about 8% to more than 169.33 million on the most recent settlement date. That was good enough for it to slip to the number three spot on the list. The prior reading was the greatest level of short interest in the past year, and the latest figure was still 16.1% of the retailer’s total float. The average daily trading volume dwindled again in the most recent period, and the days to cover rose from six to eight.
The stock continued to be a member of the 52-week low club during the period. Its shares ended the final two weeks of last month more than 5% lower, despite being up almost 7% early in the period. The stock closed most recently at $1.43 a share, which was almost 65% lower than it was six months ago. Rite Aid shares have changed hands between $1.38 (a low hit on Thursday) and $8.77 in the past year.