Shorts Against The Tech World

Posted: Aug. 16, 2017, 11:37 a.m. by

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Short sellers have recently been taking on tech – and not just any tech – big tech. Specifically, they have targeted Apple Inc. (NSDQ:AAPL C), Amazon.com Inc. (NSDQ:AMZN C)and Alphabet Inc. (NSDQ:GOOG C).

In fact, the value on short shares on the big 3 has gone up 38%, 25% and 22% respectively over the past 6 weeks. The short action came in ahead of a tech selloff last week. The 3 mentioned above plus Microsoft Corp. (NSDQ:MSFT C) and Facebook Inc. (NSDQ:FB C) are the 5 largest stocks in the S&P 500 by market cap.

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Apple As A Target

The fact Apple is a short target is puzzling to some. The company is huge, limiting the influence of shorts, which make up just over 1% of the company’s public float. In addition, the company is a few months away from a big new iPhone release – typically reason for celebration, especially given the stock’s low valuation – at 14 times forward earnings.

That said, Apple is the world’s third largest short position behind Alibaba (NYSE:BABA C) and Tesla Inc. (NSDQ:TSLA C). The main reason for the large short position is that fact that Apple is highly dependent on iPhone sales and those sales are cyclical.

Lessons Not Learned

Earlier this year the so-called FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix Inc. (NSDQ:NFLX C) and Alphabet) along with Microsoft and Apple burned short sellers to the tune of $7.1 billion.

Short positions have been made based on valuation and momentum. As a result, the high short positions may be creating more upside potential through what is known as a “short squeeze.”

Considering Conflict

For those who believe potential conflict on the Korean peninsula spells volatility and a coming collapse, some are suggesting that traders and algorithms alike have learned that grave situations usually pass without incident. In other words, it may be best to calm down and treat rumors of war as just that – rumors.

It may be that China, not Korea, is more important. President Trump’s suggestion that if China were to do more to resolve conflict on the Korean peninsula, he might do less regarding trade issues with the country.

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The End Of An Era

The ultimate question is whether the end of tech dominance is near. Short sellers may believe it is. They may be right. Or, as July suggested, they may be dead wrong. While the tech sector stumbled a bit recently – so did the equity market. Looking at the Information Technology space a year ago, 3 years, 5 years or even 10 years it has consistently been number 1 among S&P 500 divisions (or close to it).

On the other hand, when the focus shifts to less than a year, inconsistency comes into play. Enter the short sellers and their accompanying pessimism. Time will tell whether they are right.