With the holiday shopping season looking strong and tax reform coming to pass as last year wound to a close, how were short sellers positioning themselves for the coming year? Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the December 15 and December 29 settlement dates, they were mostly ready to lighten up on those stocks.
Bucking that trend, however, was Comcast and one or two others that the short sellers stuck with. Leading the trend was tech giant Intel, while Cisco and Apple also saw notable shrinkage of the numbers of their shares short.
Note that still just three Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short as of the most recent settlement date.
The more than 223.83 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares short after the final two weeks of December represented a pullback of around 5 million from the previous settlement date. The latest reading totaled 15.7% of the available float. Note though that the average daily volume dropped sharply in the period, so the days to cover increased from more than nine to over 12.
Sirius XM has a long road ahead before it gets back on track. The stock ended the short interest period fractionally lower than where it began it, despite being up more than 2% at one point. The Nasdaq was essentially flat between the settlement dates. Sirius shares closed most recently at $5.55 apiece. That is less than the 52-week high of $5.89 seen near the end of July. The 52-week low of $4.52 was reached almost a year ago.
By the end of December, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had more than 167.46 million shares short. That was down around 5% from the total on the previous settlement date, or the lowest level of short interest since October. The latest reading represented 23.7% of the company’s float. The average daily volume dropped to a 52-week low during the two-week period, so the number of days it would take to cover all short positions ticked up from four to five.
Analysts expect stellar growth from AMD in 2018. Its December 29 share price was almost 4% lower than on the previous settlement date, though the shares were up more than 4% earlier in the period. The stock closed trading on Wednesday at $11.96 a share, which is more than 13% lower than six months ago. Shares have changed hands at between $9.42 and $15.65 apiece in the past year.
More than 116.40 million Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) shares were sold short as of the most recent settlement date. The figure shrank by more than 23% from the greatest level of short interest in at least the past year. The most recent figure represented 2.5% of the company’s float. As of the end of last month, it still would take about four days for investors to cover all short positions.
Intel was a top pick for 2018 at Merrill Lynch. The stock ended the short interest period about 2% higher, though it was up more than 5% at one point during those two weeks. Intel closed most recently at $42.50 a share, which is down from a recent 52-week high of $47.64. The 52-week low is $33.23. The share price now is more than 26% higher than six months ago.