Short interest on the New York Stock Exchange rose 2.04 percent in the first half of March, the exchange said on Monday.

As of March 15, short interest rose to about 12.834 billion shares, compared with 12.576 billion shares as of February 29.

Investors who sell securities 'short' borrow shares and then sell them, expecting the stock to fall so they can buy the shares back at the lower price, return them to the lender and pocket the difference. Shorting can also be used for various hedging strategies.

NYSE short interest on March 15 was equivalent to 3.36 percent of the total shares outstanding, NYSE said.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy)