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The Short Report

Weekly Reports | Mar 22 2018


The Short Report draws upon data provided by the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC) to highlight significant weekly moves in short positions registered on stocks listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Short positions in exchange-traded funds (ETF) and non-ordinary shares are not included. Short positions below 5% are not included in the table below but may be noted in the accompanying text if deemed significant.

Please take note of the Important Information provided at the end of this report. Percentage amounts in this report refer to percentage of ordinary shares on issue.

Stock codes highlighted in green have seen their short positions reduce in the week by an amount sufficient to move them into a lower percentage bracket. Stocks highlighted in red have seen their short positions increase in the week by an amount sufficient to move them into a higher percentage bracket. Moves in excess of one percentage point or more are discussed in the Movers & Shakers report below.


Week ending March 15, 2018

Last week saw the ASX200 fall from over 6000 to above 5900 on both offshore and domestic issues. As Wall Street fretted about trade policy, White House deck chairs, Russia probes and data breaches, Australia was up in arms over Labor’s plans to scrap franking cash-backs.

The index has nevertheless entered a period of aimless wandering, without any strong catalysts in either direction. This is reflected in the fact the shorters have gone quiet. Movements below reflect little more than minor bracket creep.

One exception is Retail Food Group ((RFG)), which has continued in a downward trajectory in the wake of franchisee revelations and the planned closure of a couple of hundred of its various stores. RFG shorts fell to 11.2% from 12.9% last week, suggesting some profit-taking.

Another retailer struggling against the tide is Myer ((MYR)), but here the shorters appear happy to hang around a bit longer. Myer shorts ticked up again last week to 10.3% from 9.8%.

Otherwise we might note that while nickel miner Independence Group ((IGO)) retains its place near the top of the most shorted table, peer Western Areas ((WSA)), which at one point sat right up there as well, last week dropped off the 5% plus table altogether.

Hence when once we might have considered the big shorts in both stocks to be a play against the nickel price, now it looks more like playing one miner off against the other.

That’s about all for this week. No Movers & Shakers.

Weekly short positions as a percentage of market cap:


SYR    21.3
DMP   17.3
JBH     16.0
IGO     16.0
GXY   14.2
HSO    13.5
HT1     11.6
VOC   11.5
FLT     11.3
RFG    11.2
MYX   10.8
MYR   10.3

In: MYR                                


Out: MYR, GXL, AAD                                                                    



In: AAD, GXL           Out: MTS






In: IVC                       Out: APT, GMA, SHV



In: SHV, RSG, GEM             Out: IVC, ING, ABC, WSA

Movers & Shakers

See above.

 ASX20 Short Positions (%)

To see the full Short Report, please go to this link


The above information is sourced from daily reports published by the Australian Investment & Securities Commission (ASIC) and is provided by FNArena unqualified as a service to subscribers. FNArena would like to make it very clear that immediate assumptions cannot be drawn from the numbers alone.

It is wrong to assume that short percentages published by ASIC simply imply negative market positions held by fund managers or others looking to profit from a fall in respective share prices. While all or part of certain short percentages may indeed imply such, there are also a myriad of other reasons why a short position might be held which does not render that position "naked" given offsetting positions held elsewhere. Whatever balance of percentages truly is a "short" position would suggest there are negative views on a stock held by some in the market and also would suggest that were the news flow on that stock to turn suddenly positive, "short covering" may spark a short, sharp rally in that share price. However short positions held as an offset against another position may prove merely benign.

Often large short positions can be attributable to a listed hybrid security on the same stock where traders look to "strip out" the option value of the hybrid with offsetting listed option and stock positions. Short positions may form part of a short stock portfolio offsetting a long share price index (SPI) futures portfolio – a popular trade which seeks to exploit windows of opportunity when the SPI price trades at an overextended discount to fair value. Short positions may be held as a hedge by a broking house providing dividend reinvestment plan (DRP) underwriting services or other similar services. Short positions will occasionally need to be adopted by market makers in listed equity exchange traded fund products (EFT). All of the above are just some of the reasons why a short position may be held in a stock but can be considered benign in share price direction terms due to offsets.

Market makers in stock and stock index options will also hedge their portfolios using short positions where necessary. These delta hedges often form the other side of a client's long stock-long put option protection trade, or perhaps long stock-short call option ("buy-write") position. In a clear example of how published short percentages can be misleading, an options market maker may hold a short position below the implied delta hedge level and that actually implies a "long" position in that stock.

Another popular trading strategy is that of "pairs trading" in which one stock is held short against a long position in another stock. Such positions look to exploit perceived imbalances in the valuations of two stocks and imply a "net neutral" market position.

Aside from all the above reasons as to why it would be a potential misconception to draw simply conclusions on short percentages, there are even wider issues to consider. ASIC itself will admit that short position data is not an exact science given the onus on market participants to declare to their broker when positions truly are "short". Without any suggestion of deceit, there are always participants who are ignorant of the regulations. Discrepancies can also arise when short positions are held by a large investment banking operation offering multiple stock market services as well as proprietary trading activities. Such activity can introduce the possibility of either non-counting or double-counting when custodians are involved and beneficial ownership issues become unclear.

Finally, a simple fact is that the Australian Securities Exchange also keeps its own register of short positions. The figures provided by ASIC and by the ASX at any point do not necessarily correlate.

FNArena has offered this qualified explanation of the vagaries of short stock positions as a warning to subscribers not to jump to any conclusions or to make investment decisions based solely on these unqualified numbers. FNArena strongly suggests investors seek advice from their stock broker or financial adviser before acting upon any of the information provided herein.

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