December has turned out to be one of the most brutal for stock investors in many years. That should be good news for short sellers, depending on how they had themselves positioned. Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the November 30 and December 14 settlement dates, those sellers were mostly holding on for the ride, as short interest moves were mixed and largely mild.
Note that just three Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short as of the most recent settlement date.
The more than 214.45 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares held short after the first two weeks of this month were marginally lower than on the previous settlement date and represented 16.9% of the available float. The average daily volume increased from in the prior period, but the days to cover remained more than seven. Note that short interest was less than 200 million in eight of the past 11 periods.
Sirius is moving forward with its acquisition of Pandora Media. The stock ended the first two weeks of this month trading about 2% lower, though it had been up more than 2% earlier in the period. The Nasdaq retreated about 8% between the settlement dates. Sirius stock closed at $5.73 on Wednesday, which is more than 10% lower than 90 days ago. 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 December, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had more than 114.54 million shares short. That was over 3 million fewer than the total on the previous settlement date, and it was the lowest level of short interest in the past year. The latest reading still represented 12.0% of the company’s float. Though the average daily volume ended five consecutive periods of retreat, the number of days it would take to cover all short positions remained a little more than one.
The semiconductor segment was desperate for any good news during the period. Short sellers watched the share price increase by about 12% during in those two weeks, and even more afterward. The stock closed trading most recently at $17.90 a share, which is more than 44% lower than three months ago, as well as down from September’s 52-week high of $34.14. Shares have changed hands at as low as $9.04 apiece in the past year.
The short interest in Caesars Entertainment Corp. (NASDAQ: CZR) was the greatest it has been since October, though the number of shares short grew by just over 1% most recently. The almost 105.85 million shares posted for the latest settlement date represented 19.4% of the total float, and there have been more than 100 million shares short in seven of the past eight periods. The days-to-cover figure shrank from around eight to less than seven as the average daily increased recovered somewhat in those two weeks.
Caesars appointed a new member to its board of directors earlier this month. Its share price ended the initial two weeks of the month more than 16% lower, despite being up almost 13% at one point. The stock ended Wednesday’s session at $6.60 per share, which is down more than 35% over the past 90 days. Its 52-week trading range is $5.84 to $14.50, and that low was seen on Tuesday during the sell-off.
Rounding out the top 10 were the following:
- Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM): 74.20 million shares (almost flat)
- TherapeuticsMD Inc. (NASDAQ: TXMD): 70.80 million (−3%)
- Mattel Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT): 68.09 million (+17%)
- Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA): 65.97 million (−5%)
- Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC): 65.08 million (+1%)
- Opko Health Inc. (NASDAQ: OPK): 62.29 million (−6%)
- Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA): 59.00 million (+1%)
The clear standout here is Mattel, with short sellers hiking their bets against the stock during the heart of the holiday shopping season.
Lingering outside the spotlight of the top 10 most shorted Nasdaq stocks were Novavax Inc. (NASDAQ: NVAX), Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) and Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX). Note also that a surge in the number of Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) shares short lifted it to a six-month high, but it wasn’t enough to put the stock into the top 10.