By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, investors and traders likely would have been grateful for a break from the six weeks or so of volatility and sell-offs. By then, the major U.S. indexes were in the red for the year, and some sectors and many individual stocks remained in bearish territory. By the end of last month, many were likely ready to put the year in the rearview mirror and figure out how to position themselves for the coming year.
Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange between the November 15 and November 30 settlement dates, those sellers were renewing bets on some of their favorites. Yet, J.C. Penney and Rite Aid bucked the trend with shrinking short interest as the holiday shopping season got underway.
Note that the six most shorted NYSE stocks had more than 120 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period. In fact, all the top 10 had short interest of more than 100 million shares.
The number of Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s (NYSE: CHK) shares short jumped about 10% in the most recent period, allowing this oil and gas company to reclaim the number one spot on the list. The reported short interest of nearly 151.69 million shares represented 16.9% of the total float. The year-to-date peak back in March was over 210 million shares short. At the posted daily average trading volume on the latest settlement date, it would take about five days to cover all the short positions.
Falling natural gas prices dragged on Chesapeake as the month came to a close. Its share price retreated more than 21% across those two weeks, and even more since that time. The stock is trading around 9% lower than a week ago, and it ended Tuesday at $2.57 a share. That still is almost 5% higher over the past 90 days. Shares have changed hands as high as $5.60 and as low as $2.53 in the past year.
Also rising up the list in the latest period was Snap Inc. (NYSE: SNAP), which saw the number of its shares short grow more than 6% in the latter two weeks of November. The over 138.37 million shares reported most recently represented 24.0% of the social media and camera company’s total float. At the daily average trading volume at the conclusion of last month, it would take about 10 days for investors to cover all short positions.
The company posted a disappointing quarterly report in November. The shares ended the latest settlement period with a decline of around 3%, though they had been down about 12% before the Thanksgiving holiday. The share price was last seen at $5.75. That compares to the 52-week low of $5.57 reached this week. The 52-week high, seen early this year, was $21.22 a share. The stock now is down more than 41% in the past 90 days.
Bank of America
Bank of America Corp.’s (NYSE: BAC) short interest in the latest two-week period surged by about 18% to more than 136.09 million, pushing this stock a few spots higher on this list. That reading represented just 1.4% of the total float. As of the end of November, it would take about three days to cover all short positions, after the daily average volume shrank again in the latest period.
This stock remains a top Warren Buffett holding. Its share price ended the latest settlement period with a gain of around 3%, which was about the same as the S&P 500. The stock closed most recently at $24.58 a share, which is down more than 20% in the past 90 days. The shares have changed hands between $24.29 and $33.05 in the past 52 weeks.
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