2 Outperforming Stocks That Could Have Short Sellers Sweating

AAOI and HTZ are the most heavily shorted stocks by market cap

by Patrick Martin |

Published on Jul 14, 2017 at 3:28 PM

U.S. stocks are higher this afternoon and headed for record territory. Fiber optics firm Applied Optoelectronics Inc (NASDAQ:AAOI) and car rental stock Hertz Global Holdings, Inc (NYSE:HTZ) are enjoying breakout weeks -- and could have short sellers sweating. According to Schaeffer's Quantitative Analyst Chris Prybal's calculations, AAOI and HTZ are the most heavily shorted stocks based on dollar value and market cap. Below, we break down these short interest statistics, and take a look at what's moving shares of AAOI and HTZ.

To come up with the table below, Prybal first took the stocks' total shares shorted and multiplied by the stock price, to arrive at a total dollar value of all shorts outstanding. Then, by dividing the stocks' market cap by that total dollar figure, you can glean short interest as a percentage of market cap. Below are the top 10 tickers with at least 20% of their market cap dedicated to short interest.


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Short Interest Represents 55% of AAOI's Market Cap

AAOI has a market cap of $1.4 billion -- however, the dollar value of short interest stands at $809 million, with most of those added this year, according to Prybal. In fact, short interest on Applied Optoelectronicshas increased by a whopping 400% year-to-date, and represents 55% of the stock's market cap -- the most of any stock. 

This is intriguing, considering AAOI shares have added a whopping 232% year-to-date. The stock is up 8% today to trade at $84.32, and just touched a record high of $86.36, after Craig-Hallum upped its price target to $95 from $85. Just yesterday, Raymond James and Cowen upgraded Applied Optoelectronics stock to "strong buy" and "outperform," respectively, after the company issued stronger-than-expected second-quarter guidance.

At AAOI stock's average pace of trading, it would take nearly a week to buy back all of the shorted shares -- plenty of fuel for a short squeeze. AAOI options traders could hit the exits, too. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.72 is in the 98th percentile of its annual range. In other words, recent AAOI options traders have picked up long puts over calls at a near annual-high clip in the past two weeks.

HTZ Stock Pacing for Best Week Since 2009

Hertz Global isn't far behind Applied Optoelectrics, according to the table above. HTZ stock has seen short interest increase by 324% year-to-date, and these bearish bets now account for 41% of its market cap, based on Prybal's calculations.

HTZ stock is currently up 2.8% to trade at $15.48. The shares were in the doldrums following a post-earnings bear gap in May, eventually touching a multi-year low of $8.52 on June 21. However, Hertz stock has picked up steam since reports of a partnership with Apple, nearly doubling since those June lows. What's more, HTZ is pacing for a weekly gain of 31% -- its best week since April 2009. A continued rebound could have short sellers sweating this summer.

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