Short Sellers Target Nike Inc (NKE) and Urban Outfitters, Inc. (URBN)

Short interest surged on Nike Inc (NKE) and Urban Outfitters, Inc. (URBN)

Apr 27, 2016 at 3:54 PM
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Apparel retailers Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) and Urban Outfitters, Inc. (NASDAQ:URBN) are seeing an unusual rush of short sellers piling on. The duo were among the top 30 stocks with the biggest short interest increases during the last reporting period (comparing equities that trade at least a million shares a day or weekly options). Below, we'll take a look at how NKE and URBN are faring on the charts, and why shorts may be targeting the stocks. 

NKE has shed roughly 12.9% since hitting a record peak in December, with its most recent slide triggered by reports of lower-than-expected revenue in late March. Over the past three months, the equity has underperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by nearly 13 percentage points. What's more, the shares are on pace to end the month below their 10-month moving average for just the second time since late 2012. 

Analysts remain hopeful, however, with 80% of the brokerage firms rating NKE a "buy" or better. Options traders have been unusually bullish, too. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 1.43 ranks higher than more than two-thirds of the past year's readings.

Meanwhile, short interest on NKE rose by 28.4% during the most recent two-week reporting period -- though these bearish bets still account for only 1.1% of the security's total float. In light of the stock's less-than-impressive technical performance of late, this rise in short interest could also suggest that the recent preference for NKE long calls is in fact the result of short sellers hedging their bets against upside risk.

URBN, on the hand,  is up 38% year-to-date, and outperformed the SPX by 26 percentage points over the last 60 sessions. The stock gapped higher after its most recent earnings report in early March, and hit a 2016 high of $34.77 earlier this month, after giving an encouraging sales outlook. Since then, the shares have pulled back to support at their 50-day moving average, which coincides with the $28-$30 level -- a region that contained the equity's 2014 lows. Also, this area is home to a 38.2% Fibonacci retracement of URBN's March 2015 record high and November six-year low.

Still, long puts outpace calls more than 8-to-1 over the past 10 sessions at the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX. The resulting 10-day put/call volume ratio of 8.31 sits in the 96th percentile of its annual range. And outside of the options pits, bearish sentiment also runs high, as two-thirds of analysts maintain a tepid "hold" recommendation on the security

Moreover, short interest shot up by 43% during the most recent reporting period and now accounts for nearly 8% of URBN's available float. With the company's next earnings report tentatively due in mid-May, a positive surprise could spark an unwinding of pessimism that would help fuel a rally back to URBN's recent highs.


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