Battered Tesla short sellers are running out of juice ahead of earnings

It looks like Tesla sceptics are losing steam.

Traders are paring bearish bets against the company heading into the company’s second-quarter earnings report, due after the closing bell on Wednesday.

This is not to say that Tesla is totally in the clear — after all, it’s still the most-shorted company in the US market. What it does indicate, however, is that Tesla shorters may be growing tired of constantly losing money, and don’t want to leave themselves vulnerable to a stock spike, should the company crush profit forecasts.

Short interest on Tesla — a measure of bets that share prices will drop — sits close to its lowest in more than 2 1/2 years, relative to shares outstanding, according to data compiled by IHS Markit. The measure has come down by more than five percentage points since the start of the year and now sits at 15.9%.

Tesla short interest vs price
Tesla short interest sits close to the lowest in more than 2 1/2 years. Business Insider / Andy Kiersz, data from IHS Markit

Short interest peaked at a record high of $US11 billion as recently as mid-June before the traders started paring the position, possibly encouraged by a 17% decline off recent highs. That said, the stock is still up 50% year-to-date, which could explain why Tesla remains such a heavily shorted stock when compared to the broader market.

The high short interest is also at least partially due to the changing nature of how the market’s hottest companies are being traded, according to Ihor Dusaniwsky, the head of research at the financial analytics firm S3 Partners.

He says they’re being used as proxies for hedging the broader stock market — the wisdom being that as these huge, influential stocks go, so does the market.

“Even with these large mark to market losses, shorts are not being squeezed into closing down their positions,” Dusaniwsky told Business Insider in late July. Heavily shorted mega-cap companies are “the new non-ETF portfolio hedges,” he added. “Managers are using short positions in these stocks to hedge their portfolios against large negative market moves.

Here is a list of the most-shorted companies in the US market, in decreasing order of total short interest. Data provided by S3 Partners and as of July 25:

Screen Shot 2017 07 24 at 4.34.15 PM
Many of the market’s biggest shorts are also the best performers. Investors have stuck with positions despite losing money. S3 Partners

Get the latest Tesla stock price here.