After the strong start to the year, the momentum in the big U.S. stock indexes began to slow late in February. Trade concerns and fears of inflation another recession lingered, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testified before Congress, the earnings reporting season wound down, and even Warren Buffett himself had a bad day just ahead of the release of his highly anticipated annual letter.
Judging by the most shorted stocks traded on the Nasdaq between the February 15 and February 28 settlement dates, those sellers were focused on a couple of their favorites. Caesars Entertainment saw the only decline among the top 10, but it was a notable downswing. The real standout, though, was Apple, which faced short interest that more than doubled during the period.
Note that still just three Nasdaq stocks had more than 100 million shares short as of the most recent settlement date.
> Shares short: More than 179.93 million
> Change from prior period: +3.0%
> Percentage of float: 11.5
After the huge decline in the number of Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) shares short in the prior period to the lowest level in the past year, the previous trend continued in the latter half of February. In fact, in seven of the past nine periods, the short interest has grown. It would take short sellers more than seven days to cover their positions.
Sirius launched more than 100 new music channels on its streaming platform last month. Though the stock ended the latter two weeks of February about 1% lower, it had been both up about 2% and down more than 2% in the interval. The Nasdaq increased less than 2% between the settlement dates.
Sirius stock closed at $5.97 a share on Monday, which is only marginally 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: Nearly 120.85 million
> Change from prior period: −16.4%
> Percentage of float: 22.1
Despite ending three consecutive periods of rising short interest in Caesars Entertainment Corp. (NASDAQ: CZR), the stock stayed at second on the list. The prior reading was the greatest number of shares short in at least a year, and there have been more than 100 million shares short in 11 of the past 13 periods. At the latest average daily volume, the days-to-cover figure remained more than four.
During the period, activist investor Carl Icahn was said to be building a stake in Caesars. Its share price ended the final two weeks of last month more than 7% lower, even though they had been up more than 4% early in the period. Immediately afterward, the shares climbed a little more.
The stock ended Monday’s session at $8.66 per share, after retreating more than 1% in the past week. Caesars has a 52-week trading range of $5.84 to $13.54. Note that the low was seen during the Christmas Eve market sell-off.
> Shares short: More than 118.84 million
> Change from prior period: +2.5%
> Percentage of float: 12.9
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) remains at number three on this list after adding 2.8 million shares short in the period, reclaiming much of the decline in the previous period. The average daily volume plunged to a year-to-date low, and the number of days it would take to cover all short positions ticked up to more than two.
At least one analyst sees AMD and some of its peers as heading in the right direction after bottoming recently. Short sellers watched the share price climb about 7% but then give up the gain and end those two weeks down around 1%. The shares continued to pull back after the short interest period was over.
The stock closed trading most recently at $22.96 a share. That is more than 24% higher than at the beginning of the year, 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.