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Short-sellers are stepping up their attack on these ASX small caps

Brendon Lau

Short-sellers are increasing their bearish bets against a number of small cap stocks over the past month.

This doesn’t bode well for these emerging ASX stocks as rising short-selling interest usually weighs on the performance of the targeted stock.

Investors should be on alert! Short-sellers tend to be more sophisticated than the average investor and their willingness to put money where their pessimism is can be telling.

Short sellers are those borrow stock to sell on-market in the hope of buying it back later at a lower price. This enables them to profit from the difference.

Small cap with the biggest increase in shorts

It’s not enough to just look at the total amount of a company’s stock that is being short-sold. The increase over time in short-interest can be a better predictor of how a stock will trade in the shorter-term.

The stock in the S&P/ASX SMALL ORDINARIES (Index:^AXSO) (ASX:XSO) index that saw the biggest increase in the number of its shares being short-sold is the Mineral Resources Limited (ASX: MIN) share price.

Short-interest in the mining services group jumped 3.3 percentage points to 11% over the month to December 4, according to ASIC’s latest data which is always a week behind.

This makes the stock one of the most shorted stock on the market.

Losing direction

Second in line is the Nearmap Ltd (ASX: NEA) share price. The stock rallied 77% over the past year when the S&P/ASX 200 (Index:^AXJO) (ASX:XJO) index “only” managed a 21% gain.

Its outperformance may be attracting sceptics. The amount of Nearmap shares being short sold jumped 2.2 percentage points to 11.3% since 5 November.

The company’s solid full year results didn’t seem to put off the short-sellers either.

Poor connection

The small cap that experienced the third largest increase in short-interest is the Speedcast International Ltd (ASX: SDA).

Short-interest in the satellite services group jumped 2.1 percentage points to 13.7% over the period. Short-sellers are probably in the money on this one as the SDA share price lost nearly a quarter of its value over past month.

Speedcast may be suffering from indigestion. Management is an aggressive acquirer of businesses and it may have overestimated the synergies from buying over related companies to scale up its business.

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The post Short-sellers are stepping up their attack on these ASX small caps appeared first on Motley Fool Australia.

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Motley Fool contributor Brendon Lau has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of and has recommended Nearmap Ltd. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

The Motley Fool's purpose is to help the world invest, better. Click here now for your free subscription to Take Stock, The Motley Fool's free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson. 2019