October is often a volatile time for the stock market, and this year investors have plenty to worry about, including rising interest rates, weakness in international markets, growing effects of the trade war with China and a mixed bag from corporate earnings, as well as the upcoming elections and the holiday season. All this has the big indexes retreating from all-time highs.
Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the September 28 and October 15 settlement dates, those sellers were cautious overall. The short interest moves were mostly modest and downward. Bucking that trend during those two weeks, however, were Starbucks and Helios and Matheson Analytics, with sizable upswings in the numbers of their shares sold short.
Note that just four Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short, as of the most recent settlement date.
The approximately 187.52 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares held short after the first two weeks of this month were more than 8% lower than on the previous settlement date, or 14.6% of the available float. That was also the lowest level of short interest in at least a year. The average daily volume pulled back from a year-to-date high in the prior period, and the days to cover ticked up from less than six to about seven.
Sirius hiked its dividend by 10% during the short interest period. The stock ended the first two weeks of this month trading about 3% lower, and it has fallen off even more sharply since then. The Nasdaq slipped more than 7% between the settlement dates. Sirius stock closed at $5.65 on Wednesday, after retreating more than 17% 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 middle of October, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had more than 121.63 million shares short. That was more than 12 million less that the total on the previous settlement date, as well as the lowest level of short interest in the past year. That reading still represented 13.1% of the company’s float. And though the average daily volume retreated, the number of days it would take to cover all short positions remained about one.
Stifel likes AMD despite volatility and weakness in the chip stocks overall. Short sellers watched the share price pull back about 14% in those two weeks, most of the decline in the first few days of the month. The stock closed trading most recently at $22.79 a share, which is more than 44% 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.
Around 107.92 million Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) shares were sold short as of the most recent settlement date. That represented 7.4% of the chipmaker’s float and was a retreat of about 15% from in the prior period, but still much more than the fewer than 30 million shares seen back in August. As of the mid-month, it would take more than six days for investors to cover all their short positions at the posted average daily volume.
Qualcomm still has that generous dividend yield that has doubled in the past five years. The October 15 closing share price was around 11% lower than on the previous settlement date. It has slipped around 2% in the past week, and the stock was last seen trading at $62.62 a share, down from the 52-week high of $76.50 reached last month. The 52-week low is $48.56 per share. And the share price is around 9% higher than it was 90 days ago.