June ETF Short Report: ‘Q’s’ Shorts Drop 42%

Courtesy of Olly Ludwig

Short-sellers last month significantly cut their bets against an array of the broadest U.S. stock indexes, which looks quite sensible in the rearview mirror considering both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrials average rallied by nearly 4 percent in June.

While financial markets are again on tenterhooks over the dismal fiscal situation in Europe—and Spain’s in particular—last month marked something of a respite from the three-year-old eurozone debt crisis, as short interest on non-U.S. stocks fell as well.

Most conspicuously, the number of shares short on the PowerShares QQQ Trust (NasdaqGM: QQQ), the Nasdaq 100 ETF, dropped 42.6 percent in June, compared with a nearly 9 percent rise in the prior month. The decline left short interest on the “Q’s” at 10 percent of the ETF’s outstanding long float, compared with more than 18 percent at the end of May, according to data compiled by IndexUniverse.

Shorts on the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY) meanwhile fell by almost 23 percent in June, compared to a 13 percent jump in May. Also, short interest on the iShares Russell 2000 Index Fund (NYSEArca: IWM) fell by more than 7 percent last month, after holding about steady in the prior month.

Dark Clouds Ahead?

As noted, non-U.S. stocks got something of a reprieve as well, with shorts on the iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund (NYSEArca: EFA) dropping more than 12 percent last month, after jumping by nearly half in the prior month, according to data compiled by IndexUniverse. The ETF canvases the developed world outside of North America.

That said, short interest on the CurrencyShares Euro Trust (NYSEArca: FXE)—a long euro bet against the dollar—jumped almost 10 percent last month, in a possible sign of an underlying sentiment that the eurozone isn’t even close to being out of the woods yet.

In that same vein, short interest in SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD), the world’s biggest gold ETF, dropped by almost 25 percent last month.

Even though gold prices have been under pressure recently, short-sellers may be tidying up their positions before the next leg up in gold’s 11-year bull run.

The catalyst for such a resumption to gold’s upward movement would be more quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve. In its minutes from its most recent meeting, the U.S. central bank hinted at—but didn’t commit to—possible policy actions aimed at bolstering flagging growth.

A crucial caveat is that the drop in GLD shorts left short interest at 3.3 percent of GLD’s long interest—hardly enough to get overly concerned about, considering the ETF has more than $65 billion in assets and only makes up one piece of the global gold market.

Also, a standard caveat here at IndexUniverse is always in order: When perusing short interest data, it’s important to remember that data can be flawed.

Still, short interest data are a great way to gauge sentiment.

Big Bets
Ticker Name % Float Short 1 Month % Change $Short ($, M)
SPY SPDR S&P 500 29.95 -22.47 31,049.17
IWM iShares Russell 2000 99.18 -7.25 14,511.26
QQQ PowerShares QQQ 10.00 -42.55 3,194.71
XLE Energy Select SPDR 41.01 -13.83 2,846.47
XRT SPDR S&P Retail 402.46 -13.85 2,247.36
GLD SPDR Gold 3.31 -24.89 2,178.19
XLI Industrial Select SPDR 62.94 6.79 2,038.98
XLF Financial Select SPDR 30.68 -22.93 1,892.84
EWZ iShares MSCI Brazil 24.56 -8.65 1,779.02
EFA iShares MSCI EAFE 4.78 -12.12 1,638.25


Really Really Short
Ticker Name % Float Short 1 Month % Change $Short ($, M)
XRT SPDR S&P Retail 402.46 -13.85 2,247.36
RTH Market Vectors Retail 356.83 -11.24 71.11
FXE CurrencyShares Euro 262.73 9.58 562.24
RKH Market Vectors Bank and Brokerage 230.72 -7.70 41.90
XOP SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production 198.24 12.35 1,633.60
KCE SPDR S&P Capital Markets 155.54 1.15 36.10
RYH Guggenheim S&P Equal Weight Health Care 99.73 14.41 66.51
IWM iShares Russell 2000 99.18 -7.25 14,511.26
DUST Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bear 3X 86.05 -20.50 16.11
TMF Direxion Daily 20 Year Plus Treasury Bull 3x 76.93 -9.14 18.07

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