Short Sellers Positions in Top Dividend Stocks


On the surface it looks like short sellers are all over the place in the latest short interest report. The April 30 settlement date is after many companies had their earnings reports. We saw some real gains and some serious contractions, but now it seems as though the short sellers have started being more tactical rather than trying to peg all calls.

We tracked the short interest in these top dividend stocks: Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO), American Electric Power Co. Inc. (NYSE: AEP), Annaly Capital Management Inc. (NYSE: NLY), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), Kimberly Clark Corp. (NYSE: KMB), Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. (NYSE: KMP), Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK), Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG), Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ).

As we have said, it takes much more conviction to short sell a stock that has a very high dividend. On top of having to pay a broker loan-call rate to borrow the stock, the dividend payouts have to be paid, and the ex-dividend dates play into the equation as well. We compared the short interest settlement dates of April 30 and April 15 and gave added color compared to the recent past on each.

Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) saw a severe drop in the short interest, losing close to one-fifth of the shares short: 21.11 million versus 26.08 million. Altria's dividend yield is now down to 4.8% since the stock is back up at highs.

American Electric Power Co. Inc. (NYSE: AEP) saw a big 12% pop in the short interest to 4.34 million shares from 3.86 million shares, even though this stock remains high in price again. AEP's dividend yield is at 3.8%.

Annaly Capital Management Inc. (NYSE: NLY) saw a minor drop as short sellers wanted to avoid paying that dividend, down to 25.6 million shares short versus 26.04 million. Annaly has a current yield of about 11.9%, based on its last payout.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) saw almost a 10% drop in its short interest to 71.73 million shares, versus 78.29 million shares. AT&T's dividend is 4.8%.

Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) saw only a small decline in the short interest after what had previously been a very large drop. The short interest fell to 6.814 million shares from 6.853 million shares in the prior short interest. Before that it had been 7.8 million the prior report. This is again the lowest reading since October, but the days to cover rose to 3.41 from 2.43. Duke has a dividend yield of about 4.1%.

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) has seen some serious profit taking, and new bets come against after earnings. We just saw the second rise in the short interest, up to 94.248 million shares, at the end of April. This is up from 82.69 million shares before and from 78.92 million shares short two periods ago. Also note that GE's short interest is the highest in almost a year now. The days to cover ticked down to 1.75 from 2.43 days, and GE outyields the other conglomerates with a 3.3% yield.

Kimberly-Clark Corp. (NYSE: KMB) saw a marginal decrease in the short interest after what had been a serious increase in the bets against its massive rise. Its short interest fell to 7.896 million shares, versus 8.05 million shares short in mid-April and 6.7 million as of the end of March. This consumer products giant finally has seen shares pull back a bit, and the dividend is 3.1%.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. (NYSE: KMP) saw its fourth straight gain in the short interest as of April 30, to 3.74 million shares (units). It was 3.728 million shares (units) in mid-April, and the March 28 short interest was 3.357 million units. This is yet again the highest short interest back to last November. Its dividend is actually a distribution and is the equivalent of about 6% now that the price has come back down a bit.

Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) saw a slight drop in the short interest to 26.57 million shares, but that was after the prior report jumped way up to 28.5 million shares from 21.33 million shares short. Merck's dividend yield is about 3.8% now that shares have backed off marginally.

Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) saw a rather large drop of 16% in its short interest to 19.82 million shares from 23.6 million shares in mid-April. P&G's dividend is back up to 3.1%, now that shares sold off $4 after earnings.

Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI) saw a large gain in the short interest to 10.75 million shares, versus 9.676 million shares at the end of March and a prior near-term high of 10.38 million shares in mid-March. Reynolds has a yield of only about 4.9% as shares are close to new highs all over again.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) saw a slight uptick to 52.197 million shares short. This was 51.423 million shares as of April 15 and 57.637 million shares at the end of March. Verizon's short interest peaked at more than 61 million shares short in February, and its dividend yield is down to 3.9%.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Dividend Tagged: AEP, DUK, featured, GE, KMB, KMP, MO, MRK, NYL, PG, RAI, VZ