After one of the most brutal Decembers for stock investors in many years, we turned the calendar page on a new year. While the volatility did not go away, the markets have seen some solid gains since the Christmas Eve lows. Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the December 31 and January 15 settlement dates, those sellers were still accumulating some of their favorites, and gains outnumbered declines at the top of the list.
Zynga and Mattel led the gainers, and each moved up the list of most shorted stocks. Bucking the trend were Comcast and Intel with notable shrinkage of their short interest.
Note that just three Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short as of the most recent settlement date.
> Shares short: More than 248.54 million
> Change from prior period: +5.5%
> Percentage of float: 20.7
This followed a more than 10% increase in Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares held short in the previous period, and it was the highest level of short interest in the past year. The average daily volume picked up a bit from the prior period, but the days-to-cover reading stayed at about 10.
Sirius was among stock picks with limited exposure to China, given the trade war with that country and its recently shaky economic numbers. The stock climbed more than 10% but then gave up more than half of that gain by the end the first two weeks of this month. The Nasdaq climbed about 8% between the settlement dates.
Sirius stock closed at $5.82 a share on Friday, which is about 2% higher than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week low of $5.48 was seen just before and again after Christmas, while the multiyear high of $7.70 was reached last summer.
> Shares short: Almost 128.91 million
> Change from prior period: −1.0%
> Percentage of float: 13.5
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) remains number two on this list despite losing about 1.3 million shares short in the period. And though the average daily volume decreased somewhat, 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, and it unveiled its new offerings at CES. Short sellers watched the share price rise more than 17% but then pull back to end those two weeks with a gain of less than 12%.
The stock closed trading most recently at $21.93 a share, which is almost 19% higher year to date, but 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.
> Shares short: More than 103.41 million
> Change from prior period: +4.1%
> Percentage of float: 18.9
The short interest in Caesars Entertainment Corp. (NASDAQ: CZR) rose above 100 million again, after reclaiming most of the decline in the prior period. There has been more than 100 million shares short in eight of the past ten periods. At the latest average daily volume, the days-to-cover figure remained a little more than four.
Caesars still wasn’t feeling the love from Wall Street during the period. However, its share price ended the initial two weeks of this year more than 32% higher. Since that time, shares have been relatively flat.
The stock ended Friday’s session at $8.87 per share, which represents a gain of more than 30% from the start of this year. Its 52-week trading range is $5.84 to $14.50, and that low was seen during the Christmas Eve market sell-off.