3 stocks crushing the short sellers

Bearish bets are serving up their worst losses in a decade.

By InvestorPlace Aug 23, 2013 11:42AM


Businessman reading newspaper © A. Chederros/ONOKY/Getty ImagesBy Dan Burrows

A rising tide lifts all boats -- even the most unseaworthy ones -- and that makes a raging bull market a terrible time to be a short seller.

Even after the recent stumble, U.S. equity markets are on fire this year. The S&P 500 ($INX) has generated a total return (that's price appreciation plus dividends) of 17.6% for the year-to-date as of Aug. 21. On a price basis alone, the Nasdaq Composite is up more than 20%.

That long-and-strong performance is naturally crushing short sellers -- those punters who are betting on the market or individual stocks to go down. In fact, the shellacking they're taking is rapidly becoming one of historical proportions. According to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal, short sellers are suffering their worst losses in at least a decade.

Get this -- the short sellers' calls have been so bad, they could hardly have done worse if they tried to lose money. As WSJ reports:

In the Russell 3000 index, the 100 most heavily shorted stocks are sharply outperforming the average returns of stocks in the index, according to a Journal analysis of data provided by S&P Capital IQ. The shorted stocks are up by an average of 33.8% through Aug. 16, versus 18.3% for all stocks in the index.

Of course some shorts have been much more painful than others. With that in mind, here are five soaring stocks crushing  short sellers:

Tesla Motors

Year-to-date gains: 353%

Float Short (as of 7/31): 32%

Elon Musk's revolutionary electric car company Tesla (TSLA) is one of the most heavily shorted stocks in the U.S. market, and it's not hard to see why. Can you name the last successful new car company, much less one that sells super-pricey vehicles for which there is still no established market?

Furthermore, Tesla trades for an eye-watering 90 times forward earnings. That's another area of sticker shock when you consider the compound annual earnings growth forecast stands at just 19% a year for the next five years.

As of July 31, nearly a third of Telsa's float -- or 19.8 million shares -- was sold short, up from 18.5 million shares in the prior month. And it has been a disastrous trade. Tesla's stock is up more than 350% so far this year.


Year-to-date gains: 200%

Float Short (as of 7/31): 43%

The well-regarded purveyor of online and mobile real estate information and listings gets no love from the shorts -- and you can see their point. Zillow (Z) was barely profitable last year and is forecast to post a net loss for the current year.

Zillow's stock also looks preposterously expensive. The forward price-to-earnings ratio is a stratospheric 154, while the long-term growth forecast stands at just 30%.

That has shorts piling on hard. Nearly 43% of the float -- or 5.7 million shares -- was sold short as of July 31, down slightly from 6.1 million a month earlier. Meanwhile, the stock has nearly tripled in 2013.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

Year-to-date gains: 100%

Float Short (as of 7/31): 38%

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) hit the jackpot with the whole Keurig K-Cup brewing system ... and has always been a favorite of short sellers.  A look at the stock's incredible volatility helps explain why.

In the last couple of years, GMCR has been all over the place, from less than $20 a share up to $110 and back again. (It currently fetches about $83.)

Jumping on that volatility (as well as contributing to it), is the 38% of the float sold short as of July 31. That comes to 31.8 million shares, up a notch from 30.9 million in the previous month.

Oh, and GMCR has doubled this year.

For two more stocks crushing the short sellers, go here.

As of this writing, Dan Burrows did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

More from InvestorPlace

Aug 23, 2013 1:14PM

Telsa is understandable but Zillow is all hype and glam.  They do $145 million in revenue from ads splash on home real estate pages and lose $11 million in last 12 months but their stock has gone from $20 PS to over $80 PS on 35 million shares. Their market cap is now almost $3 billion? Yikes, they are a perfect short.

Aug 23, 2013 12:50PM

No shortage of Tesla bashers!  Not sure why, as the auto industry is ripe for this new technology.  The auto industry will and must change, and it's coming soon!

Aug 23, 2013 12:30PM
I can crush Tesla by getting a long position for my personal account. Been waiting for a pull back for about two months now. I got stopped on my original position (for a small gain) when Barron's made the absolute worst call on a stock in history. A front full page article about how and why Tesla was a $50 stock. I will not renew my subscription...
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