NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

and

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

both saw a drop in short interest in the first half March, according to the latest data from the New York Stock Exchange.

The drop in short interest on both stocks continued a

trend from the second half of February

, when Citigroup and Bank of America also both saw a decrease in bets against a rise in the price their shares.

Citigroup short interest fell to 389 million shares from more than 395 million shares at the end of February and 405 million mid-February, while Bank of America short interest dropped to 79 million shares, down from about 81 million during the previous period and 85 million mid-February.

While the late February drop in short interest for Citi and BofA appeared to be consistent with a broader trend in bets against financial stocks, that trend did not hold this time. Short interest in the

Financial Select Sector SPDR

(XLF) - Get Report

, a popular exchange traded fund that tracks financial stocks, which had fallen to 86 million shares from 88 million at the middle of February, rose to more than 106 million shares in the first half of this month.

Among the most notable shifts in short interest sentiment regarding financial stocks during the first half of March could be seen in

Charles Schwab Corp.

(SCHW) - Get Report

where short interest plunged to 29 million shares from over 53 million in the previous period, and

MetLife

(MET) - Get Report

, where it soared to nearly 29 million shares from about 12 million at the end of February.

The change in sentiment on Schwab is notable since it came just ahead of the online broker's March 21 announcement that it would buy

OptionsExpress

(OXPS)

. Schwab shares plunged with the broader market from March 15, but recovered after the deal's announcement. Again, though, that recovery in Schwab's share price mirrored the broader market's.

Other financial stocks that saw a drop in short interest in the first part of March were

Regions Financial

(RF) - Get Report

, where it fell to roughly 30 million from about 37 million in the prior period and

KeyCorp

(KEY) - Get Report

which saw a drop to 35 million from 38 million. Both of those banks had also seen a drop in short interest in the previous period.

Short interest reflects the number of shares being lent out to investors betting against a rise in the stock of a particular company. Short sellers borrow shares in the hope the stock price will fall, so they can buy the shares at a lower price to repay the lender while pocketing the difference.

The NYSE releases short interest data twice a month with a roughly two week lag time for the 100 stocks with the greatest short interest outstanding.

--

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.