What short interest tells us
By | John Preston
Short selling allows a person to freeze a stock drop, which is helpful since stock prices are constantly going up and down. There are brokerage departments and firms whose sole purpose is to investigate failing companies that are prime candidates for short selling. These companies pore over financial statements looking for weaknesses that the market hasn’t yet priced in or a company that is simply overvalued. One factor you are considering is called short interest, which serves as an indicator of market sentiment.
The art of short selling
Selling short is the opposite of buying shares. It is the sale of a security that the seller does not own, made in the hope that the price will fall. If you feel that the price of a particular security, say the shares of a struggling company, will fall, then you can borrow the shares from your stockbroker, sell it, and get the proceeds from the sale. If, after a period of time, the stock price declines, you can close out the position by buying the stock on the open market at the lowest price and returning it to your broker. Since you paid less for the shares you returned to the broker than you received when you sold the originally borrowed shares, you make a profit.
The problem is that you lose money if the stock price increases. This is because you have to buy back the shares at a higher price. In addition, your stockbroker can require the position to be closed at any time, regardless of the share price. However, this lawsuit typically occurs only if the broker deems the borrower’s creditworthiness too risky for the company.
Short Interest Shows Sentiment
Short interest is the total number of shares of a particular stock that investors have sold short but have not yet been covered or closed out. This can be expressed as a number or as a percentage.
When expressed as a percentage, short interest is the number of shares short divided by the number of shares outstanding. For example, a stock with 1.5 million shares sold short and 10 million shares outstanding has 15% short interest (1.5 million / 10 million = 15%).
Most stock exchanges track short interest on each stock and issue reports at the end of the month, though Nasdaq is among those that report twice a month. These reports are great for traders because they allow people to gauge the overall market sentiment around a particular stock by showing what short sellers are doing.
The news generates short-term changes
A large increase or decrease in short interest on a stock from the previous month can be a very telling indicator of investor sentiment. Let’s say Microsoft’s short interest increased 10% in a month. This means that there was a 10% increase in the number of people who believe that the stock price will decline. Such a significant change provides a good reason for investors to find out more. We would need to check current research and any recent news reports to see what is going on with the company and why more investors are selling their shares.
A short-term, high-interest stock should be approached with extreme caution, but not necessarily avoided at all costs. Short sellers (like all investors) are not perfect and have been known to be wrong. In fact, many contrarian investors use short interest as a tool to determine market direction. The reason is that if everyone is selling, the stock is already at its lowest point and can only go up. Therefore, contrarians feel that a high short interest rate is bullish because, eventually, there will be significant upward pressure on the stock price as short sellers cover their short positions.
Understanding the short interest relationship
The short interest ratio is the number of shares sold short (short interest) divided by the average daily volume. This is often called a “days-to-cover ratio” because it determines, based on the stock’s average trading volume, how many days it will take short sellers to cover their positions if positive news about the company drives the price up.
Suppose a stock has a short interest of 40 million shares, while the average daily volume of shares traded is 20 million. doing a quick and easy calculation (40,000,000 / 20,000,000), we found that it would take two days for all the short sellers to cover their positions. the higher the index, the longer it will take to buy back the borrowed shares, an important factor on which traders or investors decide whether to take a short position. Typically, if the days to cover extend beyond eight or more days, covering a short position could prove difficult.
The nyse short interest rate
The New York Stock Exchange Short Rate is another great metric that can be used to determine overall market sentiment. The NYSE Short Interest Ratio is the same as the Short Interest, except it is calculated as monthly short interest across the entire exchange divided by the NYSE Average Daily Volume for the last month.
For example, suppose there are 5 billion shares sold short in August and the average daily volume on the New York Stock Exchange for the same period is 1 billion shares per day. This gives us a short-term interest rate of five (5 billion/billion). This means that, on average, it will take five days to cover the entire short position on the NYSE. In theory, a higher NYSE short rate indicates more bearish sentiment towards the exchange and the global economy as a whole by extension.
Get caught up in the short squeeze
Some bullish investors see high short-term interest as an opportunity. This perspective is based on the theory of short interest. The reason is that if you are shorting a stock and the stock continues to rise instead of falling, you will most likely want to get out before you lose your shirt. A small squeeze occurs when short sellers scramble to replace their borrowed stock, which increases demand, decreases supply, and forces prices up. Short squeezes tend to occur more frequently in small-cap stocks, which have very little buoyancy (supply), but large-caps are certainly not immune to this situation.
If a stock has high short interest, short positions may be forced to liquidate and cover their position by buying the stock. If there is a bit of a squeeze and enough short sellers buy back the stock, the price could go even higher. Unfortunately, however, this is a very difficult phenomenon to predict.
The bottom line
Although it can be a telling indicator, an investment decision should not be based entirely on a stock’s short interest. That being said, investors often overlook this relationship and its usefulness despite its wide availability. Unlike the fundamentals of a company, short interest requires little or no calculations. Half a minute of time to search for short interests can help provide valuable insight into investor sentiment towards a particular company or exchange. Whether you agree with the general sentiment or not is a data point worth adding to your overall analysis of a stock.