As the third quarter of the year wound to a close, the new iPhones had already been revealed, the trade war with China continued to ramp up, the Federal Reserve raised rates again, and the midterm elections and the holiday season were still ahead. Yet, the stock market kept trading near all-time highs, and in a record bull run.
Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the September 14 and September 28 settlement dates, those sellers were looking for direction. The short interest moves were mixed and mostly modest. Semiconductor makers AMD and Qualcomm lead the decliners during those two weeks.
Note that just four Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short, as of the most recent settlement date.
The more than 205.28 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares held short after the final two weeks of last month were more than 6% higher than on the previous settlement date, or 16.0% of the available float. After five straight periods, the short interest returned to more than 200 million. The average daily volume jumped to a year-to-date high in the period, and the days to cover fell from more than 13 to less than six.
News broke during the period that Sirius was acquiring Pandora Media. The stock ended the short interest period trading more than 12% lower, and it fell off sharply again afterward. The Nasdaq drifted up about 1% between the settlement dates. Sirius stock closed at $6.18 on Tuesday, after retreating about 12% 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 September, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had more than 134.12 million shares short. That was down more than 11% from the total on the previous settlement date, as well as the lowest level of short interest in the past year. That reading still represented 14.4% of the company’s float. And the average daily volume retreated from a 52-week high, but the number of days it would take to cover all short positions remained about one.
At least one analyst saw the sentiment on AMD as too euphoric last month. Short sellers watched the share price climb more than 9% but then give up almost all that gain in the two weeks. The stock closed trading most recently at $27.24 a share, which is about 64% higher than three months ago, but down from last month’s 52-week high of $34.14. Shares have changed hands at as low as $9.04 apiece in the past year.
More than 127.02 million Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) shares were sold short as of the most recent settlement date. That represented 8.7% of the chipmaker’s float and was a retreat of more than 7% from the 52-week high in the prior period, which was by far the highest number of shares short in the past year. As of the end of last month, it would take more than eight days for investors to cover all their short positions at the posted average daily volume.
Qualcomm continued to butt heads with Apple over intellectual property last month. The September 28 closing share price was around 4% lower than on the previous settlement date. It has pulled back over 4% in the past week, and the stock was last seen trading at $70.13 a share, down from the 52-week high of $76.50 last month. The 52-week low is $48.56 per share. And the share price is around 5% higher than it was 90 days ago.