December turned out to be one of the most brutal for stock investors in many years. That should have been good news for short sellers, depending on how they had themselves positioned headed into the end of the year. Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the December 14 and December 31 settlement dates, those sellers were loading up on a few of their favorites.
Those at the very top of the list, Sirius XM and AMD, saw double-digit percentage increases in the numbers of their share short during the two-period. On the other hand, Caesars Entertainment bucked the trend with the only notable decline in short interest among the top five.
Note that just two Nasdaq stocks still had more than 100 million shares short as of the most recent settlement date.
The nearly 235.98 million Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares held short after the latter two weeks of December were more than 10% higher than on the previous settlement date and represented 19.6% of the available float. That was also the highest level of short interest in the past year. The average daily volume dropped off from the prior period, and the days to cover rose from more than seven to about 10.
Sirius saw a big analyst upgrade after the start of the new year. The stock ended the final two weeks of last month trading more than 7% lower, though it had been down about 11% earlier in the period. The Nasdaq retreated about 5% between the settlement dates. Sirius stock closed at $6.07 on Thursday, which is about 2% higher than 90 days ago. The 52-week low of $5.17 was reached nearly a year ago, while the $7.70 multiyear high was seen last June.
By the end of December, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) had more than 130.20 million shares short. That was over 15 million more than the total on the previous settlement date, which was the lowest level of short interest in the past year. The latest reading represented 13.6% of the company’s float. And though the average daily volume increased again, the number of days it would take to cover all short positions is still just a little more than one.
AMD joined the Nasdaq-100 late last month. Short sellers watched the share price retreat almost 18% but then struggle back to end those two weeks down more than 5%. The stock closed trading most recently at $19.74 a share, which is around 21% lower than three months ago, as well as down from last 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) dropped to less than 100 million for only the second time since last August. The number of shares short shrank by around 6% most recently. The more than 99.38 million shares posted for the latest settlement date represented 18.2% of the total float, and there had been more than 100 million shares short in seven of the past eight periods. The days-to-cover figure shrank from more than six to over four as the average daily increased recovered somewhat in those two weeks.