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 New York Stock Exchange between the September 14 and September 28 settlement dates, those sellers were focused on a couple of favorites, including GE, which jumped back into the top six on a surge in its shares short.
Note that the six most shorted NYSE stocks had more than 110 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period. In fact, all of the top 10 had short interest of more than 100 million shares.
The reported number of Rite Aid Corp. (NYSE: RAD) shares sold short dropped by more than 3.1 million to 159.07 million or so between the most recent settlement dates, yet this specialty retailer stayed atop the list. That was 15.1% of the company’s total float, as well as more than 17 million less than the highest level of short interest so far this year. The average daily trading volume rose during the period, and the days to cover figure slipped from about 13 to 12.
Rite Aid is among some well-known stocks that are missing out on the bull market. Its share price ended the latest settlement date more than 2% lower, while the S&P 500 gained about 1% in that time. In the past week, the stock rose about 4% but surrendered that gain, and it closed most recently at $1.14 a share, after hitting a 52-week low of $1.12. That was more than 30% lower than 90 days ago. Rite Aid shares have traded as high as $2.55 apiece in the past 52 weeks.
Jumping into the number two spot on the list was Snap Inc. (NYSE: SNAP), which saw the number of its shares short pop more than 11% in the latter half of September. The more than 140.73 million shares reported most recently represented 25.1% of the social media and camera company’s total float. At the daily average trading volume at the end of last month, it would take about five days for investors to cover all short positions.
Snap shares have been hitting new 52-week lows recently. The stock ended the short interest period more than 11% lower, and it has pulled back more since then. Snap’s share price was last seen at $7.00, after falling to a new 52-week low of $6.83 earlier in the day. The 52-week high, reached early this year, was $21.22 a share. The stock now is down almost 49% in the past 90 days.
The number of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) shares short increased by nearly 3% in the latest period to around 133.74 million. Note that short interest has increased in six of the past 10 periods, and it was a whopping 43.6% of the struggling retailer’s float most recently. The daily average trading volume grew during the two-week period, so the days to cover pulled back from about 13 to 10.
Last month, J.C. Penney appeared to be on its way to becoming a penny stock. Its share price had risen almost 10% but ended the two-week period down almost 10%, most of that drop near the settlement date. The stock has been relatively flat since then and closed most recently at $1.67 a share. Yet, that is more than 30% lower over the past three months. The 52-week low, seen last week, was $1.55, while the 52-week high of $4.75 was reached early this year.