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What Is Short Interest Ratio? Definition Explained

Although it can be a telling sentiment indicator, an investment decision should not be based entirely on a stock’s short interest. That said, investors often overlook this ratio and its usefulness despite its widespread availability. Unlike the fundamentals of a company, the short interest requires little or no calculations. This ratio indicates how many days it would take for all of a stock’s shares that are sold short to be covered or repurchased in the market. The short interest ratio has several flaws, the first being that it is not updated regularly.

  1. This percentage indicates the percentage of shares available to the public that is borrowed.
  2. At Finance Strategists, we partner with financial experts to ensure the accuracy of our financial content.
  3. Short interest can provide insight into the potential direction of an individual stock, as well as how bullish or bearish investors are about the market overall.
  4. Your profit is the difference between the price at which you sell the shares and the price you buy them back.

In this case, they would have to compete with each other to buy the shares back if they wished to cover their positions. A short squeeze is a situation where the price of a stock with a high short interest begins to have increased demand and a strong upward trend. When this happens, short-sellers try to cut their losses by buying the shares to cover short positions, and in doing so, may add to demand, thereby causing the share price to further escalate temporarily. However, in markets with an active options market, short-sellers can hedge against the risk of a short squeeze by buying call options. However, predicting price movements based solely on the Short Interest Ratio can be challenging. The ratio is merely an indicator of market sentiment and does not consider other crucial factors, such as the company’s fundamentals or broader market conditions.

The days to cover ratio is similar to the short interest ratio and measures the anticipated number of days to cover a position on the shorted shares issued by a company. Let’s assume a stock has a short interest of 40 million shares, while the average daily volume of shares traded is 20 million. Doing a quick and easy calculation (40,000,000 ÷ 20,000,000), we find that it would take two days for all of the short sellers to cover their positions. Short interest can provide insight into the potential direction of an individual stock, as well as how bullish or bearish investors are about the market overall. Stock exchanges measure and report on short interest and issue reports each month, providing investors a tool to use as a short-selling benchmark.

What the Short Interest Ratio Can Tell You

For example, when a stock’s short ratio is trending higher, then it may be a sign that investor sentiment in the company is declining. In this case, you should see it as a warning sign, and if you’re long, it may be time to reevaluate your position and consider selling. In fact, a study from MIT and Harvard in 2004 found that stocks with the highest short interest ratios underperformed by 15% per year on average.

By the ending of April 2021 (blue dotted line), the short interest ratio was declining despite short interest being elevated — the reason was that there was a higher rise in the daily volume. Some traders might attempt to manipulate the ratio to create an impression of negative sentiment and drive down a stock’s price. A high Short Interest Ratio suggests that the market is bearish on the stock, while a low ratio may indicate less negative sentiment. Individual investors should exercise caution before buying or shorting a stock with a high short interest ratio. However, predicting a short squeeze is not straightforward, and the Short Interest Ratio should not be used as a standalone indicator for such price movements. For instance, a high Short Interest Ratio might suggest that investors are pessimistic about a company’s prospects and anticipate a price decline.

Incomplete Picture of Market Sentiment

However, if the stock’s price begins to rise, the high ratio could be a precursor to a short squeeze, a scenario where short sellers scramble to cover their positions, further pushing the price up. The short interest ratio is a mathematical indicator of the average number of days it takes for short sellers to repurchase borrowed securities in the open market. Half a minute to look up short interest can help provide valuable insight into investor sentiment toward a particular company or exchange.

Owing to this potential to incur large losses, short sellers prefer to be able to repurchase shares quickly to close out their positions to avoid getting hurt from a short squeeze. A short squeeze occurs when a heavily shorted stock starts to rise in price, forcing short sellers to buy the stock to cover their positions, which can further drive up the price. If a stock has a high short interest, short positions may be forced to liquidate and cover their position by purchasing the stock. If a short squeeze occurs and enough short sellers buy back the stock, the price could go even higher. For example, suppose there are five billion shares sold short in August and the average daily volume on the NYSE for the same period is one billion shares per day.

Note that short squeezes are more likely to occur in stocks with small market capitalization and a small public float. For such stocks, when the short interest ratio is high, it will take a longer time for short sellers to cover their short positions because the average daily trading volume is usually small. As you can see, the short ratio tells investors approximately how many days it would take short sellers to cover their positions if they are facing a short squeeze (the price of the stock suddenly rises).

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An investor can calculate short interest or short float for a stock by dividing the number of shares sold short by the float by the total number of shares available for the public to buy. Even if you are long and think you can benefit from a short squeeze, it is often a madhouse — the short sellers can fight back and push the stock lower. The higher the short interest ratio, the greater the risk of taking a short position. If a stock’s price starts to shoot higher, investors who have shorted the stock typically want to be able to close out their positions quickly to minimize losses. The short interest is divided by the average daily trading volume to determine the number of days it would take for all short positions to be covered, assuming the trading volume remains constant. The short interest ratio is often used interchangeably in place of the days to cover ratio.

The higher the short ratio, the longer it will take to buy back those borrowed shares. To break it down, if the stock is not liquid enough (low daily trading volume), it would take a longer time for short sellers to cover their shorts. If the ratio is low, it means that short-sellers could easily and quickly cover their positions. The short interest ratio is the number of shorted shares for a company divided by the stock’s average daily trading volume.

Keep in mind that you must pay your broker any dividends received if the ETF pays them. A short squeeze occurs when short sellers scramble to replace their borrowed stock, thereby increasing demand, decreasing supply, and forcing prices up. Short squeezes tend to occur more often in small-cap stocks, which have a very small float (supply).

The short interest ratio is a formula used to measure how many days it would take for all the shares short in the marketplace to be covered. Thus, while short interest is a part of the short interest ratio, it is not the same as the ratio. The main What’s a limit order difference between them is that the short interest ratio takes liquidity into account since it considers the average daily trading volume. On the other hand, short interest does not take the average daily trading volume (liquidity) into account.

This means that you haven’t assumed the risk of borrowing the security before selling it. It is a very risky practice, which can result in a failure to deliver (FTD) if you can’t afford or deliver the asset to the buyer. Naked short selling is illegal because there is a great deal of financial risk involved, may lead to fraud, and can lead to artificial swings in the market.

The short interest ratio is the ratio of short interest to the average daily trading volume. Short interest is a part of the short interest ratio but is not the same as the ratio. Short interest is the number of shares that are short sold divided by the total number of outstanding shares. Therefore, the days to cover ratio basically represents the total number of days for short sellers to repurchase their borrowed shares from the open market.

So, when you sell a stock short, you are basically borrowing shares from your broker and immediately selling them in hopes that the price will drop. Because you now owe your broker the number of shares you borrowed, you’ll eventually have to buy them back. If the share price drops, you make profits from your short positions when you buy back the shares for a lower price and return them to your broker.


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