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.