Concerns about inflation and rising rates in this nine-year-old bull market were joined at the beginning of this month by fresh worries about a trade war as the administration announced new tariffs aimed especially at China. Volatility understandably spiked again. However, 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, those sellers were stocking up on their favorites between the February 28 and March 15 settlement dates, as those at the top of the list all saw short interest rise in the period. Apple and Mattel led that trend, with double-digit percentage growth in the number of their shares short. Yet, Comcast and a couple of biotech stocks bucked that trend.
Note that just three Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short as of the most recent settlement date.
The more than 221.04 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares short after the first two weeks of this month was over 1% more than on the previous settlement date. The latest reading totaled 16.8% of the available float, and it 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 more than 11 to over 12.
At least one analyst saw Sirius XM shares as a bargain last month. The stock ended the latest short interest period more than 2% higher than where it began it, though it has pulled back somewhat since then. The Nasdaq rose over 2% between the settlement dates as well. Like the broader markets, Sirius stock has seen a decline in the past week, and it closed at $6.32 on Monday. The 52-week low of $4.73 was reached last May, while the $6.61 multiyear high was seen recently.
By the middle of March, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had more than 174.07 million shares short. That was 14.5 million or so more than the total on the previous settlement date, which was the lowest level of short interest since October. The latest reading represented 19.2% of the company’s float. The average daily volume increased from a year-to-date low, and the number of days it would take to cover all short positions was about two.
AMD has not been left out of the speculation about semiconductor mergers and acquisitions. Its March 15 closing share price was about 6% lower than on the previous settlement date, despite being up around 4% at one point in the interval. The stock closed trading most recently at $10.44 a share, which is about 5% lower year to date. Shares have changed hands at between $9.70 and $15.65 apiece in the past year.
Around 104.19 million Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) shares were sold short as of the most recent settlement date. The figure grew by more than 5% from the prior period, when short interest was less than 100 million shares for the first time since last July. The latest reading represented 2.2% of the company’s float. As of mid-month, it would take more than three days for investors to cover all their short positions.
The recent failure of the Broadcom-Qualcomm deal could be an opportunity for Intel. The shares ended the short interest period more than 2% higher, though they had been up around 8% at one point. Intel closed most recently at $52.48 a share, which compares with a recent multiyear high of $53.78. The 52-week low is $33.23. And the share price now is about 12% higher year to date.