Nov. Short Report: Huge Spike In XLF Shorts

Short sellers embraced their version of the “risk-off” trade last month, increasing pressure on financial sector ETFs while covering short positions in gold in a clear reflection of the surging bearishness related to Europe's deepening debt crisis.

The Financial Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca:XLF) bore the brunt of the short selling, while other heavily traded equity ETFs, notably the CurrencyShares Euro ETF (NYSEArca:FXE), actually saw falling short interest. That may have been because the Dow Jones industrial average’s powerful 490-point rally on the final day of the month flushed short sellers and hedgers out of their positions.

But for XLF, the die was cast in terms of short-selling. The number of XLF shares being shorted jumped by 36 percent last month, a reversal after short interest fell almost 18 percent in October. The percentage of XLF’s short interest relative to its total outstanding float meanwhile rose to 71 percent from 42 percent in October, according to data compiled by IndexUniverse.

The short-selling data were consistent with IndexUniverse’s November Fund Flows report, which showed that XLF was one of last month’s least-popular ETFs. Investors yanked $1.05 billion out of the fund, or about 20 percent of the $5.8 billion in assets under management at the start of the month. It appears short sellers just added insult to injury as eurozone policymakers dithered in the fact of crisis.

The flip side of rising short interest in XLF last month was falling short interest in gold, a reflection that gold’s safe haven status was in sharp focus last month. The number of shares short of the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca:GLD) fell nearly 28 percent, lowering the precious metal with only 3.54 percent of its shares being shorted.

As was the case with XLF, the falling short interest in GLD was consistent with the fund’s rising popularity last month. It was the single most popular ETF in November, hauling in $3.13 billion in new assets, according to data compiled by IndexUniverse.

Pressure Remains On FXE

Even though the number of FXE shares being shorted fell about 3 percent last month, the ETF remains one of the more heavily shorted exchange-traded funds on the market.

It’s was No. 3 on IndexUniverse’s “Really Really Short” table, indicating that investors retain a substantial amount of pessimism about Europe’s debt crisis. The number of shares short amounted to 262 percent of its total outstanding float.

As noted, it’s entirely possible that the big rally on Nov. 30 may have led many short sellers to cover their positions, thus reversing in one day what might have otherwise been a month of rising short interest.

It’s important to remember that short interest data are buggy, and flawed, as IndexUniverse Director of Research Dave Nadig likes to say. For example, because of double-counting issues, it’s possible to have more shares reported short than actually exist in the market.

But that said, looking at the short data is still a decent way to gauge market sentiment.




Data is believed to be accurate; however, transient market data is often subject to subsequent revision and correction by the exchanges.

Don't forget to check IndexUniverse.com's ETF Data section.

Copyright ® 2011 IndexUniverse LLC . All Rights Reserved.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

More Related Articles

Sign up for Smart Investing to get the latest news, strategies and tips to help you invest smarter.