Market Overview

Shorts Love This ETF's Holdings

Shorts Love This ETF's Holdings

Global equity market carnage is not playing favorites on a regional basis to start 2016, and plenty of that carnage is being absorbed by UK stocks. Over the past month, the iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF (iShares Trust (NYSE: EWU)), the largest UK exchange-traded fund trading in New York, has tumbled more than 8 percent.

Not surprisingly, short sellers are loving that trend, and plenty are sinking their teeth into some of the 113 stocks held by the $2 billion EWU. In fact, the percentage of shares of FTSE 100 companies on loan to short sellers has been steadily rising.

Appealing To The Short Sellers

“The slow start to the year in UK equities has emboldened short sellers to add to their already high positions. The average percentage of shares out on loan across the current constituents of the index now stands at 1.75 percent of shares outstanding; the highest in at least 18 months and 15 percent more than at the start of the year,” said Markit in a new research note.

Related Link: 10 Biotechs Short Sellers Are Betting Against

Markit noted that 62 members of the FTSE 100, the UK's benchmark equity index, are home to what are deemed “material” short positions or those positions that money managers must publicly disclose. One of the most interesting cases is Royal Dutch Shel plc (ADR) (NYSE: RDS-A), Europe's largest oil company by market value.

Royal Dutch Shell

“On the most extreme end of the scale is Royal Dutch Shell. It currently sees $3.7 billion of short positions, yet does not currently feature in publicly disclosed datasets. This is due to individual positions not breaching the 0.5 percent threshold. However with 4.9 percent of shares outstanding on loan in B shares and 1.7 percent in A shares, short interest now stands at a record high for the energy firm battling falling prices,” said Markit.

The two share classes of Royal Dutch Shell combine for about 5.5 percent of EWU's weight. Several other heavily shorted FTSE 100 names are also EWU holdings, including Rolls Royce Holdings Plc, Anglo American Plc, embattled miner Glencore Plc, high-end fashion purveyor Burberry Group and Aberdeen Asset Management Plc. Retailer J. Sainsbury Plc, the most-shorted FTSE 100 member, according to Markit data, is also a member of EWU's lineup.

Image Credit: By Ramon FVelasquez - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Posted-In: Aberdeen Asset Management PLCLong Ideas News Short Ideas Specialty ETFs Intraday Update Trading Ideas ETFs Best of Benzinga


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