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The Short Report – 19 Sep 2019

Weekly Reports | Sep 19 2019

See Guide further below (for readers with full access).


Week ending September 12, 2019

Last week saw the ASX200 track a choppy path gradually higher.

There are a few reds and greens in the table below but nothing remarkable. Two stocks saw moves of over one percentage point or more, both residing in what we might call the “battery space”.

One is graphite Miner Syrah Resources ((SYR)), which rose to 15.7% shorted from 14.5%. The other is lithium miner Pilbara Minerals ((PLS)), which fell to 7.8% from 9.6%.

The Pilbara Minerals story is straightforward – the company raised capital, thus providing shorters an opportunity to buy back at a discount. There’s a bit more to the Syrah story nonetheless. See below.

Otherwise we might point out that as of last week, Tasmanian dairy product producer Bellamy’s Australia ((BAL)) was 15.0% shorted. The next day, a Chinese state-owned company made a takeover offer and the stock jumped 55%. There would have been some blood on the short-side floor.

As to whether the government will let Beijing takeover our baby formula industry to avoid having to pay the margins, at what we might call a somewhat “sensitive” time in Sino-Australian relations and the public’s perception of them, is another matter.

Weekly short positions as a percentage of market cap:

NUF    17.7
ORE    16.2
GXY   16.0
SYR    15.7
ING     15.3
BAL    15.0
NXT    14.7
JBH     13.4
GWA  11.7
HUB   11.1
BWX   10.4
DMP   10.3

No changes    



In: BKL, CGC            , IVC               Out: PLS, RWC


In: RWC, SDA                       Out: BKL, CGC, IVC            , OML



In: PLS, OML             Out: SDA



In: SAR, NEA                        Out: NCZ, KGN, COE



In: KGN, NCZ, COE, BAP               Out: SAR, NEA, LNG, WSA, SXY, SEK

Movers & Shakers

Syrah Resources will cut graphite production by -30% because of a sudden decrease in the spot price of natural flake graphite in China. Inventory levels have also built up and affected price negotiations and contract renewals.

This is attributed to increased domestic supply in China and supply from Madagascar. Purchases in China have been delayed as customers draw on inventory. Similar behaviour has also been seen in the lithium sector.

UBS noted in its report a sudden and unexpected deterioration across a number of commodities as the US/China trade war continues, creating challenges for the short term.? 

ASX20 Short Positions (%)

Code Last Week Week Before Code Last Week Week Before
AMC 1.0 0.7 RIO 4.9 4.6
ANZ 0.6 0.6 S32 1.0 1.1
BHP 3.6 3.6 SCP 0.9 0.9
BXB 0.1 0.1 SUN 0.7 0.9
CBA 1.0 1.1 TCL 0.3 0.4
COL 0.9 0.9 TLS 0.2 0.2
CSL 0.2 0.2 WBC 0.8 0.8
IAG 0.5 0.6 WES 0.9 1.0
MQG 0.5 0.5 WOW 0.8 0.9
NAB 0.5 0.4 WPL 0.8 0.9

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


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.


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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