NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

short interest surged some 16% in the first half of July, ahead of the bank's second-quarter earnings report.

Bank of America short interest rose to nearly 125 million shares in mid July from about 108 million at the start of the month, according to New York Stock Exchange data released late Tuesday. Bank of America, regularly one of the most heavily-traded tickers on the NYSE, was the fourth most active ticker among short sellers.

Bank of America shares have had a rough 2011, losing more than 25% of their value through Tuesday's close. They hit fresh 52-week lows shortly after announcing more than $20 billion in mortgage-related charges June 29. The bank also gave analysts fresh earnings guidance, officially reporting a 90 cent loss on July 19.

Since that date, the shares have been roughly flat.

Other widely-followed NYSE-listed financial stocks generally saw a decline in short interest, including

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

,

Synovus Financial

(SNV) - Get Report

,

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

,

Wells Fargo

(WFC) - Get Report

and

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

.

Financial Select Sector SPDR

(XLF) - Get Report

, a widely-followed exchange traded fund that tracks financial stocks, also saw a big drop in short interest--to some 92 million shares from 111 million at the end of June.

The NYSE publishes data on the 100 most heavily shorted listings twice monthly. Short interest represents shares that have been borrowed by short sellers who bet a stock will decline in value. They then hope to buy the shares at the lower price to repay their debt, while pocketing the difference

--

Written by Dan Freed in New York

.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.