Short Interest

Live Greek Election Poll Tracker

Courtesy of Reuters, we now have a handy, bookmarkable interactive chart for everyone's convenience to keep track of this data. And while we still believe the actual result will be meaningless, as a coalition government, either pro or against bailout, will be unformable, we are certain that the second we read that Syriza support is waning (one day, only to surge the next), the EUR, courtesy of its record short interest, and all related risk assets will soar. Keep a close eye on this chart.

Why Corporate Balance Sheets Just Don't Matter In The New ZIRP Normal

By now everyone knows that Chesapeake is a slow motion trainwreck: whether it is internal management issues, which eventually will culminate with the long overdue termination of the company's head (something the company had much control over and could avoid, but didn't, and should result in the sacking of the entire board for gross negligence), or plunging gas prices (something it had far less control over, but could have hedged properly, yet didn't), what is absolutely certain is that the firm's cash flow just isn't what it used to be. In fact, according to some, it is quite, quite negative. What, however, people do not know is that under ZIRP, when every basis point of debt return over 0% is praised, and an epic scramble ensues among hedge for any yielding paper no matter how worthless, the balance sheets of companies just do not matter. In other words, for companies that have massive leverage, high interest rates, negative cash flow, which all were corporate death knells as recently as 2008, the capitalization structure is completely irrelevant. We said this a month ago when we cautioned, precisely about Chesapeake, that "to all those scrambling to short the company: beware. CHK has a history of being able to fund itself with HY bonds and other unsecured debt come hell or high water. If and when the stock tanks, the short interest will surge on expectations of a funding shortfall. Alas, courtesy of the Fed's malevolent capital misallocation enabling, we are more than confident that the firm will be able to issue as much HY debt (unsustainably at 10%+, but that is irrelevant for the short-term) as it needs, crushing all short theses. What this means, simply, is that anyone who believes traditional fundamental analysis will and should work in the CHK case is likely to get burned." Sure enough, we were again proven right: Chesapeake just announced, following today's epic drubbing, that it is refinancing its secured debt facility (with its numerous restrictive covenants) with $3 billion in brand new Libor+7.00% unsecured paper (courtesy of Goldman and Jefferies). In doing so, CHK just got at least a one year reprieve.

NYSE Short Interest Rises To 2012 Highs

On the surface, the fact that NYSE short interest was just reported today to have risen to 13.1 billion shares as of April 30 could be troubling for the bears, as this just happens to be the highest short interest number of 2012. Indeed, an increase in short interest into a centrally-planned market is always disturbing, as it opens up stocks to the kinds of baseless short covering melt ups that simply have some HFT algo going on a stop hunt as their source, that we have seen in the past several weeks. Naturally, it would be far easier to be short a market in which Ben Bernanke managed to eradicate all other bears, especially when considering that a year ago the Short Interest as of April 30 was virtually identical.

Chesapeake Renegotiates Terms Of Wells Deal, Stock Soars On Short Covering Spree

Two weeks ago, when reporting on Chesapeake's most recent legal problem in the aftermath of the Reuters report on McClendon's private well deal, we explicitly said: "to all those scrambling to short the company: beware. CHK has a history of being able to fund itself with HY bonds come hell or high water. If and when the stock tanks, the short interest will surge on expectations of a funding shortfall. Alas, courtesy of the Fed's malevolent capital misallocation enabling, we are more than confident that the firm will be able to issue as much HY debt (unsustainably at 10%+, but that is irrelevant for the short-term) as it needs, crushing all short theses. What this means, simply, is that anyone who believes traditional fundamental analysis will and should work in the CHK case is likely to get burned, especially if China is involved which will have its own tactics vis-a-vis the future of McClendon and/or CHK. And all, of course, courtesy of the Chairman of course." Sure enough, we just got confirmation of what happens when a company that everyone has left for dead gets a bit of good news, in the form that CHK has ended the wells deal and is looking for a new chairman: the stock explodes, as it has this morning when it is now nearly 10% higher in the pre market. That, and the fact that everyone and their grandmother is short, also doesn't help.

Visualizing Aubrey McClendon "Rehypothecation" Scheme... And The China Trail

Aubrey McClendon is no amateur when it comes to shady personal transactions involving his company, nat gas giant Chesapeake: Back in October 2008, just after the financial crisis erupted, he was forced to sell more than 31 million Chesapeake shares for $569 million to cover margin calls generated from buying CHK stock just prior on margin. The company’s stock fell nearly 40 percent the week of McClendon’s share sales. McClendon issued an apology but the company’s credibility with many shareholders suffered significantly. It looks lie the story is repeating itself, only this time the margined security is not company stock, but company loans. As Reuters reports in a must read special report "Since he co-founded Chesapeake in 1989, McClendon has frequently borrowed money on a smaller scale by pledging his share of company wells as collateral. Records filed in Oklahoma in 1992 show a $2.9 million loan taken out by Chesapeake Investments, a company that McClendon runs. And in a statement, Chesapeake said McClendon’s securing of  such loans has been “commonplace” during the past 20 years. But in the last three years, the terms and size of the loans have changed  substantially. During that period, he has borrowed as much as $1.1 billion – an amount that coincidentally matches Forbes magazine’s estimate of McClendon’s net worth." Ah yes, net worth calculations, which always focus on the assets, but endlessly ignore the liabilities (as Donald Trump will be first to admit). But ignore that: what is more notable here is the circuitous way that McClendon basically lifted himself by his, or rather CHK's bootstraps: all the loans are collateralized by his 2.5% working interest in new CHK wells drilled every year. In essence a roundabout way of generating "cash" by hypothecation, and levering into an "upside" corporate case. Should CHK however incur asset impairments, and/or if the current price of gas stays at or $2.00, then not only will CHK be gutted but so will the asset quality securing the private loans to the CEO, which on top of everything have no covenants ("There are no covenants or obligations in my loan documents or mortgages that bind Chesapeake in any way," McClendon wrote in an email to Reuters.) and thus no stakeholder protections. Is it any wonder then that CHK is getting creamed as of right now as investors are once again reminded that CHK may not quite play by the rules?

Yen Set To Regain Funding Crown Soon?

The latest CFTC Commitment of Traders report is out, and what a difference two months makes for a currency. After everyone was uber bullish on the Yen two short months ago with nearly record high bullish bias in the form of 57K net long non-commercial spec contracts, the Yen has become the most loathed, and despised currency, as the net short interest has slid to -66K, nearly the largest net short in 5 years, and the most gross short exposure since June 2007. And while the Euro is still vastly detested, the Yen is en route to becoming the one currency with the most net shorts. Which begs the question: is the Yen preparing to once again become the funding currency, and is Andy Xie's analysis about an upcoming JPY devaluation about to be proven prescient once again? Finally, anyone who thinks that the central planners west of Nippon will stand for this aggression, you have another thing coming.

The Reason For The RIMM Bounce

Simply said: the results were not bad enough. And with 60 million shares short, or almost a doubling in the short interest in a few months, absolutely everyone is bearish, and one may just see a SHLD type squeeze in the stock if and as a covering panic picks up.

Market Shorts At 4 Year Lows, In Hibernation For Second Straight Month

Following the unleashing of $2.5 trillion in central bank liquidity, market shorts have predictably gone into hibernation, and as the just released NYSE short interest update confirms, the total number of outstanding shorts is at the lowest it has been in the past 4 years for the second month running, at 12.6 billion. Once the realization that central banks are limited from pumping incremental liquidity in the market is strictly limited by $9/gallon gas in Europe, and the inflection point in risk is reached, look for there to be almost no natural buying buffer to the downside. Then again with central planners out there with their CTRL+P willing to micromanage every downtick of the stock market, does anyone even care any more? Certainly not the retail investor.

Net Euro Shorts Rise Again In Past Week - Tom Stolper Bullish Call On Euro Imminent?

Just in time for the latest headfake out of Europe where sentiment at least on thus Sunday afternoon is that Greece is somehow saved (on a rehash of an old story, namely that the ECB welcomes the combination of the EFSF and the ESM - something that Germany has previously expressly refused to comply with, and something which is utterly meaningless - where will the money come from - Italy and Spain? Or will China invest more than the single digit billions in EFSF bonds raised to date?), we look at the CFTC Commitment of Traders for an update on speculative sentiment. There we see that just as the general public was starting to comprehend that Germany may let Greece fail after all, a fact confirmed by Tom Stolper's most recent flip flopping on the EURUSD, which caused the Goldman catalyst to end his call for a rise in the EUR currency (and for ZH to take the opposite side as usual, a trade which is now 160 pips in the money-  recall "Needless to say, we are now closing our short reco at a profit 9 out of 9 times in a row, and doing the opposite - i.e., going long."), speculators ended the two consecutive weeks in reducing net short exposure, and the week ended February 14 saw net short interest rise again from -140.6k to -148.6k. So if one is wondering what the weak hands are doing that just got burned shorting the pair in the past 10 days, the 100 pip move higher (which has sent the ES over 1370 and the DJIA futures over 13K) this afternoon explains it. For those wishing to bet on a contrarian outcome, which in Europe is pretty much a given, our advice is to wait for Tom Stolper to issue his latest EUR bullish forecast, which will likely be forthcoming any minute, and which will cement the FX strategist's place in the FX anti recommendation hall of fame.

The Shorts Have Left The Building

Following the market's "sudden" realization in December that the ECB had been quietly pumping $800 billion, or more than the entire QE2, into the market (sterilized? yeah right - when one lends out cash in exchange for worthless crap nobody else wants, and certainly not the Bundesbank, it is not sterilized), it became all too clear that the market's response in 2012 would be a deja vu of 2011, if only for a while. Sure enough 2012 has been a tic-for-tic transposition of the market move in 2011. The only question is how far it would go, before, like back in 2011 again, it rolled over. To get a sense of one of the best indicators of an overextended rally, we go to the NYSE whose short interest update confirms that the rally, at least based on ongoing short squeeze dynamics (which as we said in mid-January has been the best strategy for a bizarro market) is now over. Sure enough, according to the latest data, short interest has collapsed from a multi-year high in September of 16 billion shorts, which coincided with the market lows, to essentially the lowest print seen in the past 4 years at 12.5 billion shares, a level which has not been breached once in the New Normal phase of market central planning. In other words, those who look at short interest and covering as a market inflection point, the time has come to take advantage of the short mauling, and bet on the market rolling over. That said, all it takes is for a central bank chairman somewhere to sneeze the wrong way, and this best laid plan will promptly collapse.

Guest Post: Complacency Risk Is High

vix-vs-sp500-012312As I was writing this past weekend's newsletter "A Technical Review Of The Markets" it really dawned on me just how complacent investors have become on the economy, the markets and risk in general.  The mainstream media, and most of analysts, are looking at recent improvements in the economic data as a sign that the economy has begun to make a turn for the better.   This view is further supported by the rise of the stock market. With a couple of breadcrumbs, a sprinkle of "hope" and a cup of optimism - analysts, economists and investors have whipped up the perfect concoction by extrapolating recent upticks into long term future advances.  However, this is a game that we have seen play out repeatedly before. 

Treja Vu: Bond Market Starts Year With Third Consecutive "Dash For Trash" Surge

A few days ago, we noted how in light of the most recent temporary bout of market insanity, which has seen the worst of the worst companies broadly outperform risk, one should go long the 30 most hated companies in the US as determined by the short interest to float ratio. We ourselves are unsure if this was a mock recommendation, or the only way to make money in a time when short covering is the only viable trading "strategy." Now as it turns out, precisely the same approach of pursuing the biggest losers has worked in the bond world as well. As the following graphic from Reuters shows, the three best performers of the year in rates, is 10 Year paper from Ireland, Italy, and, yup, Greece, all of which have returned over 4%. The US? Down 0.7% YTD. Why the divergence? Simple - the market is fully positioned for continued massive balance sheet expansion out of Europe which at least for the time being appears to have been passed the baton of monetary irresponsibility. At least that is what the market prices in. That and some ridiculous amount in one the next 3 year LTRO next month (which however does nothing at all to fix solvency, and in fact merely makes the day of reckoning even more painful when it starts - what happens in 3 years: the ECB is forced to do a €100 trillion 7 day MRO every week to roll the entire European balance sheet on a weekly basis?). Whether the market be disappointed, we will known in just under 6 weeks. Either way, here is what bond returns look like Year To Date. For anyone hit by a case of treja vu, you are not alone: this is precisely the same pattern we have seen for the third year in a row. What happens next is well known.

Print-Or-Panic, TrimTabs On The Market's Meltup

As retail investors continue to appear significantly pessimistic in their fund outflows ($7.1bn from US equity mutual funds in w/e January 4th - the largest since the meltdown in early August) or simply stuff their mattresses, David Santschi of TrimTabs asks the question, 'who is pumping up stock prices?' His answer is noteworthy as a large number of indicators suggest institutional investors are more optimistic than at any time since the 'waterfall' decline in the summer of 2011. Citing short interest declines, options-based gauges, hedge fund and global asset allocator sentiment surveys, and the huge variation between intraday 'cash' and overnight 'futures market' gains (the latter responsible for far more of the gains), the bespectacled Bay-Area believer strongly suggests the institutional bias is based on huge expectations that the Fed will announce another round of money printing (to stave off the panic possibilities in an election year). The ability to maintain the rampfest that risk assets in general have been on (and the cash-for-trash short squeeze that has been so evident) must be questioned given his concluding remarks.