7 of Wall Street's Most Heavily Shorted Stocks

"Short interest" is one of the most interesting pieces of stock data that you might pay little or no attention to.

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"Short interest" is one of the most interesting pieces of stock data that you might pay little or no attention to. But this little metric of negative sentiment, while popular among traders, can be valuable even to buy-and-hold investors who never want to place a single bearish bet.

If you believe a stock will rise, you buy it. Easy. But what if you're bearish on a company's prospects and want to profit off that belief? A popular technique is short selling: To sell a stock short, you borrow shares so you can immediately turn around and sell them. You wait for shares to fall in price, then buy them back and return those shares to the lender. Your profit is the difference between the price you sold and the price you bought back.

But that gamble can go wrong – to the delight of bullish investors. Short sellers incur losses when the stock's price goes higher. Also, time is against you when you short a stock, because you pay interest when you borrow shares. If you want to exit your short trade, you have to buy back shares, which in turn drives the stock price higher. That might force other short sellers to cut their losses, leading to a virtuous cycle of buying called a "short squeeze."

That's why short interest (how many shares are currently sold short to bet against a company) matters. There's no concrete level, but anything above 10% of the float, which is the number of shares available for public trading, is worth watching. If you're a conservative, buy-and-hold investor who hates volatility, you might want to avoid stocks with high short interest. If you're an aggressive investor, however, you might consider buying these stocks in the hope that a small bit of positive news will trigger a short squeeze, netting large returns in a short time.

Here, we'll look at seven heavily shorted stocks to watch. These companies have short interest ranging anywhere from 14% to 96%, and many of them are the kinds of hot-moving growth stocks that are typical among short-selling targets.


Data is as of Feb. 18. Short interest data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Kyle Woodley

Kyle Woodley is the Editor-in-Chief of Young and The Invested, a site dedicated to improving the personal finances and financial literacy of parents and children. He also writes the weekly The Weekend Tea newsletter, which covers both news and analysis about spending, saving, investing, the economy and more.

Kyle was previously the Senior Investing Editor for Kiplinger.com, and the Managing Editor for InvestorPlace.com before that. His work has appeared in several outlets, including Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, Barchart, The Globe & Mail and the Nasdaq. He also has appeared as a guest on Fox Business Network and Money Radio, among other shows and podcasts, and he has been quoted in several outlets, including MarketWatch, Vice and Univision. He is a proud graduate of The Ohio State University, where he earned a BA in journalism. 

You can check out his thoughts on the markets (and more) at @KyleWoodley.