August is often a period of summer doldrums in the stock markets. Yet this year, those investors, traders, analysts and others who didn’t go away on holiday saw the markets reclaiming all-time highs (in a record bull run), after an earnings season that was stronger than many expected, as well as an economy that is strong despite growing trade wars and rising interest rates and inflation.
Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the August 15 and August 31 settlement dates, those sellers may have been looking for direction. Short interest moves were mixed, but Comcast led the gainers while Intel had the most notable decline among the favorites.
Note that just three Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short as of the most recent settlement date.
The more than 196.14 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares held short after the final two weeks of last month were less than 2% more than on the previous settlement date, or 14.9% of the available float. It was only the fourth time in at least a year that the short interest was less than 200 million. The average daily volume dropped to a year-to-date low in the period, and the days to cover rose to more than 17.
Sirius remains a holding at Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. The stock ended the short interest period trading more than 2% higher, and it has risen a little more since then. The Nasdaq was up about 4% between the settlement dates. Sirius stock closed at $7.12 on Wednesday, after retreating about 2% in the past 90 days. The 52-week low of $5.17 was reached early this year, while the $7.70 multiyear high was seen back in June.
By the end of August, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had more than 146.58 million shares short. That was barely more than the total on the previous settlement date, which was the lowest level of short interest in the past year. The latest reading still represented 15.7% of the company’s float. And the average daily volume surged to a 52-week high, so the number of days it would take to cover all short positions shrank to a bit more than one.
Analysts like Stifel have remained positive on AMD despite recent weakness among semiconductor stocks. Its shares ended the latest short interest period more than 27% higher, though they had been up more than 37% at one point in the two weeks. The stock closed trading most recently at $32.21 a share, which is more than 103% higher than three months ago, as well as a few cents shy of the 52-week high hit earlier in the day. Shares have changed hands as low as $9.04 apiece in the past year.
Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s (NASDAQ: CZR) reaffirmed its place on the list as its short interest increased for the 14th straight period, and the latest gain was by more than 6.0 million shares. The more than 105.02 million shares as of the end-of-the-month settlement date represented 18.4% of the total float, and it was the greatest number of shares short in at least a year. The days-to-cover figure jumped from less than four to over nine as the average daily volume shrank from a year-to-date high.
Even with short sellers piling on earlier in the month, Caesars is seen to be among some cheap stocks with huge upside potential. Its share price ended the most recent two-week short interest period about 10% higher, with most of that gain coming early in the period. The stock closed most recently at $10.35 per share, which is down more than 13% over the past 90 days. Its 52-week trading range is $8.55 to $14.50, and that low was seen at the beginning of last month.
Opko Health Inc.’s (NASDAQ: OPK) short interest slipped by less than 690,000 from in the previous period to more than 76.09 million shares on the most recent settlement date. That was the third greatest level of short interest so far this year, and it represented 23.4% of the total float. The daily average trading volume dwindled, and the days to cover figure grew from almost 14 to a year-to-date high near 23.
Opko’s CEO was among those charged by the SEC this week in a so-called pump-and-dump scheme. The stock dropped over 20% to $4.58 before trading was halted on the Nasdaq. The 52-week trading range is $2.66 to $7.24. By the end of the two-week short-interest period, the share price was more than 12% higher, though it had been up nearly 15% at one point.
Comcast Corp.’s (NASDAQ: CMCSA) short interest increased about 19% in the latest period to the second highest level so far this year. The more than 74.01 million shares on the most recent settlement date represented 1.6% of the total float. The year-to-date high was more than 86 million shares short back in January. Also note that the latest days to cover figure was up to more five as the average daily volume shrank handily.
Though Comcast may have lost out on gaining 21st Century Fox assets, it said recently it still will carry the Fox Big Ten Network. Comcast’s share price ended the latest two-week period more than 5% higher but retreated somewhat afterward. The stock closed most recently at $36.09 per share, which is up more than 11% from 90 days ago. Shares have traded between $30.43 and $44.00 apiece in the past year.
Short interest at Neovasc Inc. (NASDAQ: NVCN) totaled more than 72.60 million shares by the end of the month, after pulling back about 7% from the prior settlement date. That was the sixth period in a row in which the number of shares sold short shrank. The days to cover jumped from about five to a year-to-date high over nine during the latest period to as the average daily volume tumbled.
Nasdaq has begun the process of delisting this Canadian cardiovascular device maker. Short sellers watched the stock rise more than 9% (less than a penny per share) in those two weeks, most of that gain at the end of the period. The most recent closing share price was just above the 52-week low of $0.03. Shares are around 95% (about 58 cents) lower year to date and so don’t appear to have much further to sink. The stock has traded as high as $1.89 a share in the past year.
Rounding out the top 10 were Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC), Geron Corp. (NASDAQ: GERN) TherapeuticsMD Inc. (NASDAQ: TXMD) and Mattel Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT). Intel was the standout here, with a double-digit percentage drop in the number of its shares short, allowing it to slip out of the top six in those two weeks. Mattel saw a marginal decline, while the others saw modest bumps in their short interest in that time.
Lingering outside the spotlight of the top 10 most shorted Nasdaq again were MiMedx Group Inc. (NASDAQ: MDXG) and Synergy Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: SGYP). Note that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) saw a double-digit percentage gain in its short interest, but it remains well outside of the top 10.