The American Thanksgiving holiday fell between the November 15 and November 30 short interest settlement dates, and investors had much to give thanks for, with the market’s bull run approaching nine years old and the major markets still at or near new all-time highs. Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange, short sellers were selective during the period.
The most notable rise in short interest was seen in Bank of America, which rose up the list by a couple of notches due to a double-digit percentage rise. On the other hand, the number of J.C. Penney shares short shrank by a double-digit percentage as the holiday shopping season got underway.
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, despite about a 6% drop to with nearly 210.86 million shares short on the most recent settlement date. That was the second consecutive decline, down from a year-to-date high over 230 million. The latest reading represented 3.4% of the company’s float. As of the end of last month, it would take around six days to cover all short positions, due to a retreat in the average daily trading volume.
Obstacles to the acquisition of Time Warner don’t appear to have discouraged institutional investors and insiders. In the final two weeks of November, investors watched the share price rise more than 7%, most of that gain coming at the end of the period. The stock did hit a new 52-week low of $32.55 per share early last month but ended Monday’s trading at $36.90 a share. The share price still is more than 5% lower than six months ago. AT&T shares reached a 52-week high of $43.03 per share back at the beginning of the year.
The number of Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s (NYSE: CHK) shares short has risen in most periods this past year, and in the latest period it saw another gain, of less than 2%, to more than 169.54 million. That represented 18.9% of the oil and gas 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 last month whether Chesapeake has fallen into a death spiral. While its share price ended the two weeks more than 6% higher, at one point in the period it was up more than 9%. The S&P 500 saw a less than 3% gain between the settlement dates. The stock closed Monday’s trading at $3.83 a share, which is more than 24% lower than six months ago. The 52-week low of $3.41 was seen back in October. Shares have changed hands as high as $8.20 in the past year.
Weatherford International PLC (NYSE: WFT) followed Chesapeake up one spot on the list as the number of its shares short grew more than 7% in the latter two weeks of November. That was the highest level of short interest so far this year. The more than 169.09 million shares reported most recently represented 17.3% of the total float. The days to cover reading ended the period at around six as the average daily volume declined.
Weatherford was again a member of our 52-week low club last month. Short sellers watched the share price retreat more than 9% but end up almost 5% lower by the latest settlement date. In those two weeks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw a gain of more than 3%. The stock was last seen trading at $3.36 a share, after sinking to a 52-week low of $3.08 in late November. The 52-week high, from last March, was $7.09.