Short Interest

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?

NYSE Margin Debt Rises To Fresh Five Year High As Short Interest Slide Continues

With the Fed no longer even pretending it is not all about the stock market, where some mysterious trickle down force is supposed to boost the economy the second the S&P hits new all time highs, and injecting billions into stocks via Primary Dealers courtesy of the daily now-unseterilized POMO (today's edition saw another $3.4 billion enter risk assets), there is apparently no reason to worry about anything. Sure enough, institutions don't need a second invitation to BTFD especially if they can do so on margin. According to the latest NYSE margin debt data, the December of margin debt used for various leveraging activities rose for the fifth consecutive month, reaching $331 billion - the highest since February 2008, when the market was declining, and back to the levels from May 2007 when the market was ramping ever higher to its all time highs which would be hit 3 short months later, and just as the subprime bubble popped.

Netflix Beats, Guides Higher As Free Cash Flow Implodes

One look at the headline numbers, and of course the short interest of Netflix, and one can see why the stock is being squeezed by nearly 30% after hours:

  • Q4 Revenue: $945 MM, Exp. $934 MM
  • Q4 EPS of $0.13, Exp. $(0.13)
  • Q4 domestic contribution margin 18.5%, up from 16.4% in Q3 and 10.9$ in Q4 2011
  • Total domestic subscribers 27.15 MM, paying subs: 25.47 MM
    • Forecasts 28.5MM-29.2MM domestic subscribers in Q1
  • Sees Q1 Revenues of $1.004 billion to $1.031 billion
  • Domestic DVD subs dropped from 8.61 to 8.22 while generating $254MM in revenue and $128MM in profit

In fact, all is either just a little bit better or much better if one looks at the projection set... until one looks at the actual Cash generated by the Business. Behold the Free Cash Flow as reported by the company... no, not AMZN, although it may well be its small cousin.

Overnight Sentiment: Cautiously Confident With IBM, GOOG Down; AAPL Next

With the market basking in glow of good earnings results yesterday, mostly out of IBM, and to a lesser extent GOOG, which missed on the top line but beat on EPS squeezing some recent inbound shorts, S&P500 futures have yet to post a solid move to the upside. Perhaps a big reason for this is the recent recoupling of risk based on not one but two carry signals: the first is the well-known EURUSD pair, while the second is the recent entrant, the USDJPY, and it is the latter that continues to see a cover of the massive short interest accumulated over the recent 1000 pip move higher on what upon ongoing reflection has been a disappointing announcement out of the BOJ. Needless to say, the Nikkei whose recent surge higher was all due to currency weakness has tumbled overnight despite corporate fundamentals, if not economic data, which continues to post substantially subpar prints.

NYSE Short Interest Plunges To March 2012 Levels

As if the already documented record $220 billion year end equity market injection courtesy of deposits (being used by bank prop arms to invest in risk assets) was not enough to send markets into nosebleed territory to start the new year, which fully explains the institutional (note: not retail) capital flood into equity funds and ETFs as has been trumpeted every day for the past week by CNBC (we will update the retail data from ICI today), here is yet another reason why the 2012 to 2013 transition has everything to do with trading technicals and nothing to do with fundamentals. As the chart below shows, the reported level of NYSE short interest tumbled as of December 31, to 12.9 billion shares, a major 5% decline - the largest incidentally since December 30, 2011 - the lowest level since March, and a trend which has likely persisted as the shorts once again have thrown in the towel (except for Herbalife of course). Of course, this collapse in bearish sentiment, which goes hand in hand with the surge in NYSE margin debt to 5 years highs, is only sustainable if and only if the Fed has now fully eradicated all risk and all volatility in perpetuity. Which for now, judging by the epic ongoing smackdown in the VIX, is succeeding. That will change.