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HLS: Insiders vs. Shorts

By Market News Video Staff, Friday, March 17, 3:02 PM ET
Play Video: What Short Interest Means


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The most recent short interest data was recently released for the 02/28/2017 settlement date, and HealthSouth Corp (NYSE:HLS) is one of the most shorted stocks of the Russell 3000, based on 11.59 "days to cover" versus the median component at 4.50. There are a number of ways to look at short data, but one metric that we find particularly useful is the "days to cover" because it considers both the total shares short and the average daily volume of shares typically traded. The number of shares short is then divided by the average daily volume, to express the total number of trading days it would take to close out all of the open short positions if every share traded represented a short position being closed.

In the case of HealthSouth Corp (NYSE:HLS), the total short interest at the 02/28/2017 settlement date was 9,666,925 shares, which compares to the average daily trading volume of just 834,387 shares, for a "days to cover" ratio of 11.59.

When short sellers eventually cover their positions, by definition there must be buying activity because a share that is currently sold short must be purchased to be covered. At the present levels of short interest, if from this point forward every single HLS share traded represented a short position being closed, then at the average daily volume of 834,387 shares it would only be during the 12th trading day that every short position would be closed.

So it would stand to reason that should some unexpectedly good news come out, and short sellers did not have 12 days of patience but instead wanted to cover their short positions very suddenly, that situation could result in sending the stock higher until the higher price produces enough sellers to generate the necessary volume to close out those positions quickly.

HealthSouth Corp (NYSE:HLS) has something relatively rare for a stock with this much short interest, that being insiders taking the other side of the trade. Looking back over the trailing six month period, HLS has seen 2 different instances of insider buying, as summarized by the table below:

Purchased Insider Title Shares Price/Share Value
11/09/2016 Mark J. Tarr EVP and COO 6,371 $39.29 $250,316.59
11/09/2016 Douglas E. Coltharp EVP & Chief Financial Officer 6,450 $39.14 $252,453.00

Below is a chart showing the "days to cover" for HLS over time:

And looking at the chart below, HLS's low point in its 52 week range is $34.34 per share, with $43.38 as the 52 week high point that compares with a last trade of $42.51.

HealthSouth Corp Moving Averages Chart

In recent trading, shares of HealthSouth Corp (NYSE:HLS) were changing hands at $42.51/share.


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