BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Rite Aid (RAD - Get Report) and Home Depot (HD - Get Report) had the largest increases in short interest at the end of March, according to data from the New York Stock Exchange, as investors turned more bearish on the market.
Short interest, which measures all uncovered short positions in securities, rose during the second half of March, according to the NYSE. Short positions are bets that a stock will fall. Investors borrow shares and sell them, hoping to buy the stock back at a lower price to profit on the difference.
According to the NYSE, overall short interest increased to 12.64 billion shares through March 31, up 0.9% from 12.54 billion shares on March 15. During that same period, the S&P 500 rose 2.3%, recovering from the lowest point of the year March 16.
The markets took a turn for the worse in mid-March on violent protests in the Middle East and North Africa as well as the earthquake and tsunami that battered the northeast region of Japan. Stocks have rebounded since that March 16 low, even as oil and commodity prices continue to soar and Japan continues to wrestle with a possible nuclear catastrophe.Several equities listed on the NYSE had rapid increases in short interest during the last half of March, some by as much as 233%. Short interest is one indicator that long investors in these stocks could be in for painful declines. The following is a list of 10 stocks that saw the largest percentage increases in short interest from March 15 through March 31, ranked in reverse order. This data was pulled from the NYSE and NYSE Arca's top 100 positions, which is released on a bi-monthly basis.
10. Masco (MAS) Company Profile: Masco manufactures, distributes and installs home improvement and building products including faucets, cabinets, architectural coatings and windows. Short Interest Change: Short interest in Masco climbed 18.2% to 24.5 million positions as of March 31. The stock is down 2.6% over the past month. In February, shares of Masco fell sharply after the company said its fourth-quarter loss widened, falling short of Wall Street's forecast.