Short-sellers have made a killing on various sectors of the U.S. stock market this year, but no other sector “held a candle” to the blockchain industry, with crypto company short-sellers profits up 126% in 2022, according new data.
On Thursday, technology and data analytics firm S3 Partners published a video summarizing its recent report, which found that overall, U.S. equity short-sellers are up on average more than 30% for the year.
Some of these profit gains were attributed to the short-selling of automobiles and components stocks (up 54%), software and services stocks (up 50%), media and entertainment stocks (up 46%) and retail stocks, (up 46%) in the year, though these all paled in comparison to crypto stocks, which saw short-selling profits up 126% in 2022.
“But none of these industries holds a candle to short sellers in the crypto sector, up 126% on an average short interest of $3 billion dollars.”
Crypto stocks with the highest short interest include exchange Coinbase Global (COIN), Bitcoin miner Marathon Digital Holdings (MARA), and MicroStrategy (MSTR), a software company that is also known for being the largest publicly traded holder of Bitcoin.
Short selling occurs when an investor borrows a security and sells it on the open market with the expectation to buy it back in the future for less, pocketing the difference. This is profitable when prices decline.
Short interest is the total number of shares of a particular stock that has been short-sold by investors but has not yet been covered or closed out. High or increasing short interest could indicate that investors are pessimistic about a certain stock.
At the time of writing, Coinbase stocks are down 79.67% year-to-date (YTD), Marathon Digital is down 80.02% YTD, and MicroStrategy is down 71.10% YTD, according to Google Finance.
However, S3 Partners says that while the pace of crypto short-selling has remained high, with $71 million of new short-selling over the time period, the pool of stock available to borrow is drying up — meaning that “prospective short sellers may be late to the party.”
“With stock borrower utilization at 91%, short sales in size may be difficult to execute, and borrow rates may make it expensive for new and existing short sales.”
Utilization is measured by the number of loaned shares divided by the available shares in the securities lending market, with a high utilization rate indicating that the demand for the stock from short sellers is elevated.
On Tuesday, S3 Partners’ managing director of predictive analytics Ihor Dusaniwsky told his 82,000 Twitter followers that Coinbase’s short interest reached $1.52 billion on June 14, whilst MicroStrategy’s short interest hit $689 million. Marathon Digital Holdings’ short interest amounted to $181 million.
Related: Further downside is expected, but multiple data points suggest Bitcoin is undervalued
The falling prices of crypto stocks accompany the crash in crypto prices and the downturn in traditional markets amid sharp interest rate hikes and high inflation.
On Thursday the price of Bitcoin fell to $20,205 as rumors swirled of a possible collapse of crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (3AC).
The recent price movements have prompted some analysts to believe a very long consolidation and accumulation period for the crypto market is to come.