Morgan Stanley: "Most Of The Buying Has Come From Shorts Covered Rather Than Longs Bought"

Confirming what we explained recently, Morgan Stanley explains that among its equity long-short fund activity, the short activity (the net of shorts added and shorts covered) reached a minus-2 z-score indicating massive covering over the past 20 days. The last 3 times this occurred were April 2010 (S&P then fell 13% in 8 days), July 2011 (S&P then fell 19% in 23 days), and Oct 2011 (S&P then fell 10.5% in 20 days). Across sectors, Consumer Discretionary has been the most covered over the past week and month. Due to heavy covering, Discretionary short activity fell below a minus-3 z?score as of yesterday (now the highest long/short ratio of all sectors). It is worth keeping in mind, MS add, that historically speaking, the sector with the highest long/short ratio has often gone on to underperform over the following 6?12 months. This covering has driven median net leverage up to 64% (its 97th percentile of post crisis levels).

Money-on-the-sidelines!! not so much... Massive short-covering rally - yes...

Quoting from MS' John Schlegel:

L/S funds have been consistently covering over the past month, which has driven gross lower and net higher.


One way we measure long and short activity is by looking at the activity z-scores on a rolling basis where the past 20 days’ cumulative activity is compared to all 20-day rolling periods over the past 12 months. On this basis, the short activity z-score reached -2 as of this week, indicating significant covering by L/S funds. Other times we’ve seen a minus 2 z-score: late April 2010, early July 2011, and late Oct 2011.


Looking at the long activity, it had been relatively paired off (i.e. longs bought approximately equal to longs sold), prior to a small increase very recently. This illustrates that most of the buying has come from shorts covered rather than longs bought

Mystery solved.

And visually:



and the last three times short activity was this extreme...


as Consumer Discretionary shorts were crushed... (but now are at the most extreme net long fo all sectors - suggesting the fun is over)...


which has driven up net leverage to near post crisis record levels...


Charts: Morgan Stanley and Bloomberg


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