After volatility roared back into the markets in early February, bringing with it the long overdue 10% correction, things seemed to settle down somewhat as the month wore on. Then volatility spiked again when March arrived, as concerns about rising interest rates were joined by fears of a trade war. Sell-offs can be good for short sellers, depending on how they are positioned and how nimble they are.
Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq, these sellers were cautious overall between the February 15 and February 28 settlement dates, but there were a couple of notable moves.
Short sellers got out of the way of many of their favorites during the final weeks of last month, with Comcast dropping out of the top six on the list. Short interest in Apple, though, surged for the second period in a row, and it has once again become a member of the top 10.
Note that now just two Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short as of the most recent settlement date.
The more than 218.18 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares short after the latter two weeks of last month was about 1% more than on the previous settlement date. The latest reading totaled 11.3% of the available float and was the second highest level of short interest so this year. As the average daily volume retreated somewhat in the period, the days to cover grew from about nine to more than 11.
At least one analyst saw Sirius XM shares as a bargain earlier in the month. The stock ended the short interest period less than 2% higher than where it began it, despite being down more than 2% at one point. The Nasdaq rose only fractionally between the settlement dates. Like the broader markets, Sirius stock has seen a gain in the past week, and it reached a multiyear high of $6.55 on Friday. The 52-week low of $4.73 was seen last May.
By the end of February, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had about 159.55 million shares short. That was about 5.8 million fewer than on the total on the previous settlement date, and it was still the lowest level of short interest since October. The latest reading represented 24.7% of the company’s float. The average daily volume decreased to a year-to-date low, and the number of days it would take to cover all short positions was more than three.
Expectations were high last month for AMD’s budget gaming chip. Its February 28 closing share price was about the same as on the previous settlement date, despite being both down more than 3% and up about 6% in the interval. The stock closed trading on Friday at $11.70 a share, which still is more than 6% higher year to date. Shares have changed hands at between $9.70 and $15.65 apiece in the past year.