Investors have collectively had a mixed view of short sellers through time. After all, aren’t they doing the un-American thing of betting against the value of stocks? There are many reasons that investors short sell stocks, and not all of them are that the companies will fall in value. Then there are others — the screaming shorts!
24/7 Wall St. has evaluated the first formal short interest stocks of 2016 with a key eye on the companies in which a massive portion of their float is counted in the short interest. This is at least one-third of the float on the lower end and is north of half of their float on the high end.
With such large short interests out there, these are companies in which short sellers are extremely aggressive. They seem like the strongest conviction short sells. One word of warning should be heeded here: they are extremely crowded shorts. An unintended effect of crowded shorts is that investors can see violent short covering rallies, even if news doesn’t seem all that good.
Insys Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: INSY) is unheard of by many biotech investors. It is highly volatile (shares down 7% on Thursday alone) and it just hit a new 52-week low of $18.20. This is the largest stock short if you measure as a percentage of the float — a whopping 86% of its float is short. The mid-January short interest was 20,942,770 shares, up from 20,861,073 at the end of 2015, and it has some 26 days to cover. This is deemed a cannabinoid stock with the cancer pain drug Subsys. The company also recently rejected recent media reports’ accounts of its practices as misleading and unreliable.
Cal-Maine Foods Inc. (NASDAQ: CALM) is one such short, with the January 15 short interest of 17,336,025 shares. That is up from 17,179,793 shares short at the end of December, and it represents a whopping 59.8% of the float. It is also 20 days to cover. Some investors have believed that the bird flu and the explosion in egg prices were not sustainable long term, so an egg seller is highly shorted.
Wingstop Inc. (NASDAQ: WING) has not been public that long, but the wing-concept takeout food chain is down one-third from its highs after a 2015 initial public offering (IPO). It has a highly unusual short interest. The 3,504,514 shares short in mid-January was up only a tad from the 3,440,039 shares in the prior period, but this is now 50.0% of its float and is 17 days to cover.
Conn’s Inc. (NASDAQ: CONN) has had its share of remaining consistent in electronics and appliances sales. While its short interest fell to 9,892,264 shares in mid-January from 10,336,729 at the end of December, some 46.7% of its float is sold short, and it would take 10 days to cover.
GoPro Inc. (NASDAQ: GPRO) is no stranger to negative stories about being a one-product wonder. Short sellers started betting against this high-flying IPO as soon as they could. GoPro’s mid-January short interest of 35,315,883 shares was up another 2.369 million shares from the 32,946,883 shares short at the end of 2015. What matters here is that this is 45.4% of the float. Due to it being such an actively traded stock (by humans and machines), it has only three days to cover.
MannKind Corp. (NASDAQ: MNKD) is not technically the highest short interest as a percentage of the float, but its high share count and low prices makes it one of the most shorted stocks of all public stocks — fourth highest of all! MannKind’s implosion of the inhalable insulin deal and recent capital raises and negative news have just given the shorts an even stronger conviction. Some are even not wanting to cover until it disappears. Mid-January’s short interest was 123,892,191 shares, up from 120,719,394 shares short at the end of 2015. This represents some 45.1% of MannKind’s float, with nine days to cover.
Iconix Brand Group Inc. (NASDAQ: ICON) remains a company with great retail and consumer brands, but one with a questionable past and future. Its short interest rose almost 30% to 16,871,973 shares in mid-January, versus the 13,010,789 shares short at the end of 2015. This represents 41.5% of Iconix’s float and six days to cover.
These are far from the only companies with unusually high percentages of their float tied up in the short interest. Some are larger than these, but these all stood out handily.