The new year got off to a strong start, despite the bull market being well more than eight years old, due in part to optimism in the wake of the new tax law. So how were short sellers positioning themselves ahead of the coming earnings reporting season? Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the December 29 and January 12 settlement dates, they were mostly loading up on their favorites.
Bucking that trend, however, was Intel, with a notable drop in the number of its shares short during those two weeks. On the other hand, leading the trend was Micron Technology, with the only double-digit percentage gain among the most heavily shorted Nasdaq stocks.
Note that still just three Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short as of the most recent settlement date.
The approximately 231.51 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares short after the first two weeks of the year represented a gain of more than 7 million from the previous settlement date. The latest reading totaled 16.2% of the available float. Note too that the average daily volume jumped in the period, so the days to cover decreased from more than 12 to less than nine.
Sirius XM exceeded is 2017 subscriber guidance and issued a new outlook for the year this month. The stock ended the short interest period around 4% higher than where it began it, despite being up more than 6% at one point. The Nasdaq saw more than a 5% gain between the settlement dates. Sirius shares closed most recently at $5.73 apiece. That is less than the 52-week high of $5.89 seen near the end of July. The 52-week low of $4.64 was reached almost a year ago.
By the middle of January, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had almost 175.83 million shares short. That was up around 5% from the total on the previous settlement date, and it reclaimed most of the decline in the previous period. The latest reading represented 19.5% of the company’s float. The average daily volume was the highest it has been since October, and the number of days it would take to cover all short positions slipped from five to less than three.
AMD is a top pick at Merrill Lynch for the first quarter. Its January 12 closing share price was about 16% higher than on the previous settlement date, most of that gain coming in the first couple of trading days of the year. The stock closed trading on Wednesday at $12.71 a share, which is more than 15% higher year to date. Shares have changed hands at between $9.70 and $15.65 apiece in the past year.
More than 106.38 million Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) shares were sold short as of the most recent settlement date. The figure shrank by more than 8% in the period to the smallest reading since last August. The most recent figure represented 2.3% of the company’s float. As of middle of this month, it still would take about two days for investors to cover all short positions.
Intel had a somewhat shaky start to the new year. The stock ended the short interest period more than 6% lower, though it was down more than 8% at one point during those two weeks. Intel closed most recently at $45.51 a share, which is down from a 52-week high of $47.64 in December. The 52-week low is $33.23. The share price now is almost 3% lower year to date.