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The Short Report – 15 August 2019

Weekly Reports | Aug 15 2019


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 August 8, 2019

Last week saw the ASX200 tank in line with Wall Street on China currency fears before grinding out a modest recovery. Today is a different story.

In last week’s Report I suggested the run to the high itself might explain why there was a lot more red than green on the table below, yet this week we see all red in the downturn bar one stock.

While a drop in CSR ((CSR)) shorts would reflect last week’s sympathy rally after peer James Hardie ((JHX)) posted a very strong earnings report, elsewhere it would appear most short increases are in anticipation of earnings reports to come. AMP ((AMP)) is the only stock to have already reported (poorly).

It is worth noting that of the 14 stocks shorted by 10% or more, four are battery-related, reflecting the volatility in the EV/battery demand versus lithium/graphite/etc supply argument, and four are agriculture-related. Top two shorted Inghams Group ((ING)) and Nufarm ((NUF)) reflect the drought story while Bellamy’s ((BAL)) and Bega Cheese ((BGA)) are more about Chinese risks.

Nufarm shorts rose to 19.2% last week from 17.8% and Bega’s rose to 10.7 from 9.7%.

Harvey Norman ((HVN)) shorts rose to 10.6% from 9.6% to put it in the 10% club alongside peer JB Hi-Fi ((JBH)) on 14.4%, but JB Hi-Fi reported the day after and sparked a short-covering rally. Stay tuned for next week.

Shorts in nickel miner Western Areas ((WSA)) jumped to 8.6% from 7.3% on a supply-side related rally for the nickel price some analysts see as only temporary.

The earnings season will begin to have more of an impact in next week’s report before the last two weeks of August bring an absolute flood of results. And this before a macro backdrop of escalating volatility. Could get interesting for the shorters.

That about covers it. No Movers & Shakers this week.

Weekly short positions as a percentage of market cap:

ING     19.4
NUF    19.2
BAL    16.0
ORE    16.0
GXY   15.9
JBH     14.4
NXT    14.0
SYR    13.6
BWX   12.1
DMP   11.8
PLS     11.7
HUB   11.3
BGA   10.7
HVN   10.6

In: BGA, HVN          



In: BOQ, AMP, KGN                        Out: BGA, HVN


In: WSA, GWA                      Out: AMP, BOQ, KGN, CSR                                   



In: CSR                       Out: WSA, GWA



In: NCZ, COE                       



In: CUV                      Out: NCZ, COE

Movers & Shakers

See above.

  ASX20 Short Positions (%)

Code Last Week Week Before Code Last Week Week Before
AMC 0.9 0.9 RIO 4.7 4.4
ANZ 0.7 0.7 S32 1.4 1.4
BHP 3.0 2.9 SCP 0.7 0.6
BXB 0.3 0.2 SUN 0.5 0.3
CBA 1.1 1.1 TCL 0.8 0.8
COL 1.0 1.0 TLS 0.4 0.3
CSL 0.3 0.3 WBC 1.1 1.0
IAG 0.4 0.4 WES 1.1 1.2
MQG 0.7 0.7 WOW 1.8 1.6
NAB 0.6 0.6 WPL 0.9 0.9

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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