Short Interest

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You: MBIA's $1 Billion World War Z

Frequent readers will recall that in the past, on several occasions, we expected that MBIA would rise due to two key catalysts: a massive short interest and the expectation that a BAC settlement would provide the company with much needed liquidity. That thesis played out earlier this year resulting in a stock price surge that also happened to be the company's 52 week high. However, now that we have moved away from the technicals and litigation catalysts, and looking purely at the fundamentals, it appears that MBIA has a new problem. One involving Zombies. These freshly-surfacing problems stem from a particular pair of Zombie CLO’s – Zombie-I and Zombie-II (along with Zombie-III, illiquid/black box middle-market CLO’s).  While information is  difficult to gather, we have heard that MBIA would be lucky to recover much more than $400 million from the underlying insured Zombie assets over the next three years, which would leave them with a nearly $600 million loss on their $1 billion of exposure which would materially and adversely impact the company's liquidity.  And as it may take them a while to liquidate assets in a sure-to-be contentious intercreditor fight – their very own World War Z – MBIA may well have to part with the vast majority of the $1 billion in cash, before gathering some of the potential recovery.

BlackBerRIP: BBRY Plummets Over 20% On Friday Afternoon Early Earnings Debacle

UPDATE: BBRY opens and trades down to $8.06 - all-time lows -21%

Having risen phoenix-like off the lows in July, it seems Blackberry is echoing the Eastman Kodaks of the world. Releasing its earnings early, the results are dramatically worse than expected:

BLACKBERRY 2Q PRELIM. REV. $1.6B, EST. $3.03B
BLACKBERRY CUTTING 4,500 JOBS
BLACKBERRY TO CUT OPER EXPENDITURES BY ABOUT 50% BY END 1Q '15

The last bullet point is great news: think of all the cash that will go toward dividends and stock buybacks...

Where The Pain Is Today

Whether or not the Nokia-Microsoft deal makes any economic sense is up for analysts to argue but judging by the market's reaction to MSFT this morning, we'd say 'not' as the stocks is down almost 5% (devouring the entire Ballmer-bounce). However, Nokia is up a stunning 41% as investors seem not just relieved at the firm's dumping of the loss-making mobile business (always a greater fool?) for $7.2 billion; but concerned at the massive short-interest in the name. While the absolute number of shares short has dropped in recent weeks, it remains high at 11.9% of float (according to Markit); but in terms of days-to-cover it has never been higher and in fact will take around 15 days at average volume to unwind fund's massive short positions.

While Hedge Funds Underperformed The S&P By 80% In 2013, They Piled Into These Three Stocks

That hedge funds as a whole have been underperforming the S&P500 not only in 2013 but in the past five years is well-known to most. This trend continued into the second half when, as Goldman calculates, the average hedge fund has returned only 4.1%, or an 80% underperformance compared to the S&P500's 20% through August 9. This is a marked deterioration compared to the 65% underperformance the last time we made this comparative observation in May. Some of the other more surprising observations: YTD, 25% of hedge funds have generated absolute losses and fewer than 5% of hedge funds has outperformed the S&P 500 or the average large-cap core mutual fund. 2 and 20 anyone?

Deutsche Bank Hopes "Not All Margin Calls Come At Once In Case Of A Sell-Off"

A recent survey of asset managers globally, managing USD 27.4 trillion between them, found that 78% of defined-benefit plans would need annual returns of at least 5% per year to meet their commitments, while 19% required more than 8%, "a target of 5% per year can be reached but only by using leverage, shorting, and derivavtives." And sure enough, as Deutsche Bank (DB) reports, in short, investors have rarely been more levered than today! According to DB, a MoM change in NYSE margin debt >10% has to be taken as a critical warning signal as there are astonishing similarities in the sequence of events among all crises. As the S&P 500 just hit a new all-time high, investors might want to ask themselves when it is a good time to become more cautious – yesterday, in our view. Simply put, the higher margin debt levels rise, the more fragile the underlying basis on which prices trade; with even a less severe sell-off in equities capable of triggering a collapse.

Herbalife Smashes Expectations, Guides Higher, Announces $0.30 Dividend: Stock Surges

Today's most eagerly anticipated earnings release, that of Herbalife, also known as the focus of the most entertaining feud of 2013 between Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn, were just released, and they are a blowout.

  • HERBALIFE LTD. 2Q ADJ. EPS $1.41, EST. $1.18
  • HERBALIFE 2Q REV. $1.22B, EST. $1.16B
  • HERBALIFE OPERATING CASH FLOW $214 MILLION
  • HERBALIFE SEES YR ADJ. EPS $4.83-$4.95, EST. $4.78
  • the always amusing: HERBALIFE 2Q HAS EXPENSES 7C-SHR ON 'ATTACKS OF CO BUSINESS'

The biggest news as always was not reported: it was the most recent short interest in the name. At 36% it means much more pain in store for shorts. But the punchline is that Herbalife just announced a $0.30 dividend per share: a dividend which will to a big extent come straight out of Bill Ackman's pocket.

Eric Sprott Asks "Do Western Central Banks Have Any Gold Left?"

Recent dramatic declines in gold prices and strong redemptions from physical ETFs (such as the GLD) have been interpreted by the financial press as indicating the end of the gold bull market. Conversely, our analysis of the supply and demand dynamics underlying the gold market does not support this interpretation. As we have shown in previous articles, the past decade has seen a large discrepancy between the available gold supply and sales. Many recent events suggest that the Central Banks are getting close to the end of their supplies and that the physical market for gold is becoming increasingly tight. The recent sell-off was all orchestrated to increase supply and tame demand. We believe that central planners are now running out of options to suppress the gold price. After taking a pause, the secular gold bull market is set to continue.

Are Bond Yields Set To Soar? Not So Fast

US Treasury yields have risen sharply in the last four weeks with 10yr yields higher by about 50bps. Direct causation is hard to find. While the economic data has improved in places, the prices have moved much more than the facts. For just about every good piece of data, there was an equal piece of bad news. Then of course, there is Ben Bernanke who made the slightest hint to the possibility that a tapering of purchases could begin "in the next few meetings" if the economics warranted. But trying to position a trade based on the impact of the Fed quickly becomes a reflexive exercise going no place because the Treasury market finds a way to reflect macroeconomics despite them. The history of the Fed shows that economics always trumps their effects. This isn't to say that at any given moment, the Fed may have interest rates at a different level than they otherwise would be, but it isn't useful to use this as a reason to buy or sell because a change in their buying could just as easily mean that the economy will be weaker and thus rates would fall as that they would cause rates to rise. What this recent yield back-up boils down to is that the market is expecting that there is self-sustaining, above trend, GDP growth coming. It isn't often that prices become this divorced from fundamentals. Expecting self-sustaining above trend growth is hoping, not the result of a careful analysis. We continue to think that no matter how forceful this back-up has been, or where it ultimately peaks, we will see new low yields in the Treasury market before this cycle is over. Here are 7 short-term and 3 long-term reasons why we think they won't stay up here for long...

Ben Bernanke Crushes Hedge Funds: Average Hedgie Underperforming S&P by 65% In 2013

For all those curious why all real money managers (and not those who spend 18 hours a day on the modern day Yahoo Finance known as Twitter, "trading" with monopoly money while selling $29.95 newsletters) are furious at what Bernanke and company are doing as shown in the most recent Ira Sohn conference, we present the chart below from Goldman which confirms what most have already known: the Federal Reserve has made hedge funds a thing of the past, whose investors are sure to keep underperforming the S&P until the moment when it all goes tumbling down.

The Volkstesla Squeeze

Back in 2008, Volkswagen briefly became the most expensive stock in the world on what would become the case study of an epic short squeeze when following some (malicious) capital structure drama, the short interest became greater than the total outstanding float, sending the stock up 500% in a few short weeks. German billionaire Adolf Merckle committed suicide as a result. We may be in for a redux, courtesy of yet another car company: Tesla, whose most recent short interest as of 41.5%, has led to a surge in the stock price of nearly 300% in the past few weeks, and which covering rampage shows no signs of abating. Will Volkstesla be the new Volkswagen?

MBI Saga Over: Bank Of America To Settle Long-Running Litigation, Take 5% Stake; MBIA Stock Soars 50%

The seemingly endless MBIA saga, in which the mortgage insurer sued Bank of America and where a settlement has been overdue for some two years (see here), is finally coming to an end. Moments ago Dow Jones reported what the final settlement may look like: $1.6 billion in cash as well as a $500 million line of credit. Just as notable, BAC will buy a 5% equity stake in the name. MBIA was briefly halted as a circuit breaker was triggered, and has continued to surge following the unhalt. As a reminder, a settlement in this case may push the company into the $20 handle realm. Finally, our report from September 2011 on MBIA's potential to be the next Volkswagen courtesy of its massive short interest as a percent of float can be found here.

High Yield Shorts As Confident As In October 2007

While the supposed common-knowledge is that rising short-interest is where to look for epic squeezes (and indeed it appears to the case in individual stocks); in ETF-land, it tends to be the opposite (especially when the underlying of the ETF is relatively illiquid). Absolute short interest in the high-yield bond ETF HYG is at a record - surging to over 23mm shares - heralded by many as evidence that HY can squeeze higher. However, given the incredible rise in shares outstanding in HYG (as flows drove creation until around six months ago) the more reliable indication is the short-interest-ratio. The SI ratio is back at the same levels it was at the highs of the Oct 2007 period - we humbly suggest that this (as was clear in 2007) is anything but contrarian as professional bond managers using ETF liquidity to hedge their over-stuffed and over-flowing illiquid HY bond portfolios. With HY 'yields' at record lows, HY spreads near record lows (and crossover having only been tighter during 1946-65 repression), leverage rising notably, and valuations extreme (only 22% of CCC credits priced with yields over 10%!!!) is it any wonder that the professionals are as confidently hedged as they were as the credit crisis exploded and Lehman struck.

Short Squeeze Hunting: Presenting The Most Hated Stocks Of Q1

While yesterday's biggest S&P drop of the year to date, and today's risk off continuation, is merely a modest response to the completely baseless fear that the Fed will no longer create free beta for everyone, to most liquidity-addicts it is merely a chance to "BTFD." So for the benefit of those who just can't wait for the momentum to return (in a world where fundamentals are completely meaningless as a result of the Fed's soon to be $4 trillion balance sheet and only momo and hope-based strategies remain), we provide our quarterly update of the most hated stocks as represented by the percentage of short interest relative to float. Because as the recent Herbalife saga has shown, the only residual strategy from the Old Normal in a time when the only thing matters is what direction the Fed chairman sneezes, is to force epic short squeezes not based on fundamentals but purely on stock technicals and massive short overhangs.

Meet The Icahnator: This Is What Happens When You Piss Off A Billionaire On Prime Time TV

Everyone recalls the slow motion trainwreck from the afternoon of January 25, when in an epic bitchfest, hedge fund titans Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn screamed at each other telephonically for about an hour on CNBC in what was nothing but one big pissing match. Just over two weeks later, Icahn forced a major squeeze in the stock when as we wrote previously and as we predicted, he disclosed a massive 13% stake, or some 14 million shares in the company built up through stock and calls (essentially costless thanks to Icahn's recent profits on Netflix). What many may not know however, is that for Icahn, the HLF stake was nothing more than a $500 million dollar impulse buy. Why? Because as the chart below, which breaks down the cumulative purchases of HLF stock by various Icahn's funds, shows, the billionaire only held some 1.7 million shares until the January 25 afternoon of his screamfest with Ackman. Then the Monday after the feud Icahn went ballistic, and proceeded to buy some 120,000 shares on Monday and 197,459 option-equivalent shares, after which he tapered off his stock purchases while ramping up the call buys, and buying an epic 10 million share-equivalent calls in the next two weeks, without pause, compassion or remorse, and with just one thought: crush, mangle and destroy Ackman!

Herbalife Soars As Icahn Goes Medieval On Ackman, Reports 12.98% Stake In The Company

Remember when Bill Ackman told Icahn on CNBC he should tender for the company (to a less than favorable reply)? Well, Icahn may have done just that: moments ago the belligerent billionaire just reported a 12.98% stake in Herbalife, adding that he intends "to have discussions with management of the Issuer regarding the business and strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value, such as a recapitalization or a going-private transaction." Needless to say, the stock soars, and it remains to be seen if the epic short squeeze that we predicted, and that Icahn confirmed on TV could happen if there is not enough float to satisfy all the shorts, will be next. Volkswagen anyone?