We have seen increased short selling in the Biotech and Pharmaceutical Sectors over the last month as the sectors were giving back some of their 1st quarter growth. Over the last 30 days the XBI Biotech ETF is down -8.55% and the XPH Pharma ETF is down -6.66%. In response to these declines Biotech-Pharma short sellers have sold short an additional $1.32 billion worth of stock over the last 30 days.
The domestic Biotech Sector has been rallying of late, in response to continued enthusiasm that the progress towards a Covid-19 antiviral or vaccine is promising. The IBB ETF, iShares Nasdaq Biotech ETF, is up over +6.5% for the year and over +17% over the last month. As expected, we’ve seen correlated short covering in the sector during this rally. Total short interest in the sector is $49.26 billion, and we’ve seen $612 million of short covering over the last month. But surprisingly, the covering was concentrated from April 10th through May 1st and we’ve seen an increase of bearishness over the last week with $190 million of new net short selling.
Advanced Micro DevicesAlibabaAmazonCannabisConsumer DiscretionaryCVS HealthHealth CareIndustrialsInformation TechnologyMicrosoftNetflixQualcommSectorsSquare
The weeklong rally from last week’s lows has taken a bite out of the $93.7 billion of mark-to-market profits, +11.12%, short sellers have earned since the beginning of October. Over the last week the S&P 500 index increased by 3.31%, the Nasdaq by 4.3% and the Russell 3000 by 3.23%. The S3 Blacklight platform tracks over 8,000 U.S. domestic equity shorts worth over $825 billion, which incurred mark-to-market losses of $23.3 billion, or -2.86%, over the last week.
AlibabaCommunication ServicesConsumer DiscretionaryConsumer StaplesEnergyFinancialsHealth CareInformation TechnologyMaterialsReal EstateSectors
Hong Kong\China short sellers have been actively shorting into the declining Hong Kong and Chinese markets and generated $17.3 billion in mark-to-market profits, +18.0%, as the Hang Seng Index declined 16.7% and the CSI 300 Index declined by 25.8% in 2018. Short sellers continue to increase their positions as their profits build, adding $1.7 billion in new shorts throughout the year. Hong Kong\China with $80 billion in short interest is the second most shorted country behind the U.S. ($911 billion) and ahead of Japan ($73 billion) and the U.K. ($66 billion.)
CVS HealthHealth CareSectors
Amazon.com’s (AMZN) pursuit of being the retailer of choice for as many product lines as possible has reached into the prescription drug industry with its purchase of online pharmacy PillPack Inc. (Private Company) for an estimated $1 billion. This follows CEO Jeff Bezos’ recent alliance with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/AB) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) to form a joint venture to address the complexity and high cost of worker health benefits. Stocks in the soon to be disrupted Drug Retail and Healthcare Distribution Sectors felt the pain immediately with the average stock price in the two sectors down 5.6% at the close. AMZN’s stock price is up 2.5% on the news, generating a $20 billion increase in its market cap on the impending $1 billion PillPack purchase.
Tracking $1.6 trillion of worldwide short interest in S3’s Blacklight SaaS platform and standalone Black App we can see which shorted securities had the most and least profitable month of April on a mark-to-market P/L basis. I’ll be breaking down the top ten winners and losers in the U.S., Worldwide ex-U.S. and worldwide Exchange Traded Products.
We tracked $951 billion of short interest in the U.S./Canadian region and the top ten most and least profitable short trades for the month of February were:
Most Profitable Shorts
(in $ millions)
Ticker Sector Feb. Avg.
Wal-Mart Stores WMT Hypermarkets $3,620 +$665.4 +18.38% Tesla Inc TSLA Auto Manufacturer $9,984 +$599.9 +6.01% CVS Corp CVS Drug Retail $3,020 +$545.3 +18.05% Comcast Corp CMCSA Cable & Satellite $2,868 +$488.7 +17.04% Advanced Micro Dev AMD Semiconductors $1,996 +$460.6 +23.07% Chevron Corp CVX Integrated Oil & Gas $2,613 +$451.4 +17.28% Exxon Mobile Corp XOM Integrated Oil & Gas $2,751 +$433.3 +15.75% Alphabet Inc A GOOGL Internet Software & Svcs $3,972 +$409.2 +10.30% MiMedx Group Inc MDXG Biotechnology $512 +$371.9 +72.59% Akorn Inc AKRX Pharmaceuticals $741 +$366.0 +49.39%
- WMT After a rally which lasted for all of 2107 and stretched into January 2018, Wal-Mart’s stock price has been declining since it reported quarterly earnings which missed on profits, beat on sales and disclosed 2018 guidance below expectations.
- TSLA After hitting $357.42 in late February, Tesla’s stock price began to tumble as it nears its 200,000th vehicle delivery which will mark the eventual phase out of the U.S. Government’s $7,500 tax credit.
- CVS CVS shares trended lower when the DOJ asked for more details on the CVS-Aetna merger. Even their strong quarterly results, which beat on earnings and sales, couldn’t reverse its 14% price drop in February.
- CMCSA Comcast’s share price took a hit when they disclosed a potential rival bid for Fox’s media assets, Disney has a $52 billion offer on the table, which would have to be topped.
- AMD After posting solid quarterly earnings, analysts fear that its crypto-mining based growth may be short lived and tenuous due to increased competition.
- CVX Chevron quarterly results met revenue expectations, but missed badly on earnings after backing out the effect of $2 billion of tax benefits.
- XOM Exxon Mobil reported lower than expected quarterly earnings due to a drop in demand for its refining business.
- GOOGL Alphabet had strong quarterly revenues, but earnings underperformed FactSet estimates by $0.28/share even though overall revenues increased by 24%.
- MDXG MiMedx is delaying the release of its 4th quarter and 2017 full year earnings until it concludes an internal accounting audit. Later In the month reports arose that the DOJ was investigating the company’s sales and distribution practice, specifically regarding government contracts.
- AKRX Shares plunged after its acquirer, Freenius SE, announced that it was conducting an investigation into Akorn’s product development policies in relation to FDA date integrity procedures.
Least Profitable Shorts
(in $ millions)
Ticker Sector Feb. Avg.
Snap Inc A SNAP Application Software $1,763 -$557.3 -31.62% GrubHub Inc GRUB Internet Software & Svcs $1,327 -$410.4 -30.93% Netflix Inc NFLX Internet Retail $5,859 -$386.6 -6.60% Twitter Inc TWTR Internet Software & Svcs $1,212 -$256.2 -21.14% Apple Inc AAPL Technology & Hardware $7,568 -$229.5 -3.03% Ebay Inc EBAY Internet Software & Svcs $1,333 -$224.0 -16.80% Lumentum Holdings LITE Communication Equip. $726 -$187.0 -25.77% Amazon.Com Inc AMZN Internet Retail $7,518 -$185.6 -2.47% Micron Technology MU Semiconductors $2,618 -$180.5 -6.90% Qorvo Inc QRVO Semiconductors $744 -$177.4 -23.84%
- SNAP Snapchat stock soared over 20% as its quarterly results handily beat expectations on both revenues and Daily Active User growth.
- GRUB Yum! Brand (YUM) announced a delivery partnership with GrubHub, extending GRUB’s reach across the country. YUM purchased $200 million of GRUB stock to formalize the agreement.
- NFLX Netflix signed Ryan Murphy, creator of American Horror Story, to a five year deal. NFLX is slowly inching towards the $300/share level which is increasing buying demand from momentum traders.
- TWTR Twitter reported its first profitable quarter, beating on both revenues and earnings but disappointing slightly on Monthly Active User growth.
- AAPL Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) increased its Apple stake in the 4th quarter 2017 to 169.6 million shares or $29.7 billion.
- EBAY Reported strong quarterly results and decided to end its payment processing relationship with PayPal and replacing it with Dutch firm Adyen. EBAY is looking to not only to reduce its payment processing costs but also control more of its operational footprint.
- LITE Reported strong quarterly earnings including an increase in overall sales, specifically in its 3D-sensing product line.
- AMZN Amazon began cost cutting measures with over 100 layoffs in its corporate workforce. Amazon is also looking to expand its retail footprint in the medical supply sector, an extension of its possible foray into the retail drug sector. The firm is also starting its own shipping service to compete with UPS for not only its own deliveries but also for their retail partners.
- MU Micron Technology reported strong earnings, reporting EPS and sales higher than previous guidance culminating with year-to-date earnings that could hit $10/share.
- QRVO Qorvo reporting better than expected quarterly earnings with slightly weaker short term guidance but stronger long term guidance.
Want deeper insight into the above analysis?
Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) is in the process of acquiring wholesale pharmacy licenses in 12 states according to the St. Louis Dispatch. Although these licenses would not allow them to compete directly with CVS Corp (CVS), Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) and Rite Aid Corp (RAD) it may be the first step in getting retail license that would put Amazon.com in direct competition with the brick and mortar pharmacy retailers.
At last week’s SALT Conference renowned short seller Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates promoted his short positions in drug maker Mallinckrodt PLC (MNK US) and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Co (ESRX US). MNK is the 10th largest short in the Pharmacy sector, but is the most profitable short in the sector in 2017, while ESRX is both the largest short in the Health Care Services sector and the most profitable in the sector in 2017.
S3 Analytics: Negative Bets Against Express Scripts Post-Citron Research Report as Bearish Sentiment Builds
Shares of Express Scripts (ESRX US), the pharmacy benefit manager, declined 2.4% during Friday’s trading session after well-known activist short seller Andrew Left of Citron Research penned a research report with a $45 price target for the company, which is about a third lower than where ESRX shares trade today. In the report, Citron states that ESRX “deserves to fall to the mighty sword of the new Trump administration.” Left even went so far as to label the company the “Gotti of Pharma” and tagged @realDonaldTrump on Twitter urging him to “fix drug pricing with one stroke” by investigating the existing PBM rebate (essentially a kickback) model, for which ESRX is a major beneficiary.