Using the Short Ratio to Forecast Turning Points for Stocks

Using the Short Ratio to Forecast Turning Points for Stocks

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Today's screen shows how to use the short ratio to find growth stocks. 

This week's screen looks at a market sentiment indicator called the 'short ratio' to find new stock picks.

The short ratio is the number of shares sold short (short interest or bets that the stock will go lower in price) divided by the average daily volume. This is also sometimes referred to as the 'days to cover' ratio because it tells approximately how many days it will take short-sellers to cover their positions if good news sends the price higher.

The higher the ratio, the longer it would take to buy back the 'sold' (borrowed) shares. And in theory, the more short positions there are to cover, the stronger the short covering rally would be.

Click here to learn more about using the short ratio to screen stocks.

How to use it

Many people who use this indicator like the number of 'days to cover' to be higher than 8-10 days. It's generally believed that a short ratio of that size could prove difficult to cover and therefore trigger a strong rally on any hint of an upswing. (My personal preference is to take that into consideration, but also compare it to the industry's average ratio and the stock's own historical ratio.)

And while I wouldn't recommend using just the short ratio as the 'be all to end all' of screening items, I do think it can be a great tool for helping define great opportunities.

Short ratio and consolidation

Sometimes when I'm looking for stocks that have been in a lengthy consolidation, I'll look for those stocks with high short ratios.


Because consolidation ranges are basically areas of market indecision. Bets are being made by both bullish and bearish investors. So finding stocks that are going back and forth near their price highs with a growing short ratio shows that ever-increasing bets are being made on prices going lower.

However, if the stock breaks out to the upside, properly positioned bulls will more than likely add to their winnings … undecided traders will now be convinced to get long … and shorts will have to scramble to cover their bearish bets. This can be an explosive situation.

Short ratio and bottom picking

This can also be used quite effectively for bottom fishing too. 

When a stock is getting battered and pundits are wrangling over whether it's the bottom or not, you should pay close attention to the short ratio.

Of course, there has to be a reason for a stock to move higher. So seeing an improving fundamental outlook is important.

But when lopsided market sentiment seems to be at its worst (reflected in investors buying and selling), the short ratio can be just the thing to uncover extremes.

For example: for beaten down stocks you can search for companies near their 52-week lows with increasing short ratios. Or better yet, look for short ratios above their average values or even ones that are at (or near) their historical highs.

Short ratio and uptrends

For stocks moving higher, try looking for historically high short ratios for stocks up 20% or more (new uptrend) or that have just rallied past an important moving average like the 50 or 200-day average. (Funds will often pile in at those points. So a large short ratio could propel the market significantly higher as huge buyers bid the market up while panicky shorts chase it even higher just to get out.) 

The screen I'm currently running focuses in on those kinds of companies: stocks in solid uptrends, despite the recent pullback in the market, with relatively large short ratios that could send the stocks soaring if the shorts are forced to buy those shares back. The parameters to this week's screen are: 

  • % Price Change – Last 12 Weeks greater than S&P 500
  • Current Price / 52-week high greater than or equal to .80
    (Stocks trading within 20% of their 52-week high.) 
  • Projected one year growth rate greater than the industry median
  • Short ratio greater than 10 (more than 10 days to cover)
  • Current short ratio is greater than the short ratio 1 month ago
  • Zacks ranks less than or equal to 2 (Strong buys and buys)
  • Current price greater than or equal to $5
  • Avg. daily volume greater than or equal to 100,000

Click on the interactive chart below to view data over time. 

Do you see investment opportunities among the results from this week's screen? Use the list below as a starting point for your own analysis.

1. BancorpSouth, Inc. (BXS, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Operates as the holding company for BancorpSouth Bank that provides commercial banking and financial services to individuals, and small-to-medium sized businesses in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, and Illinois. Market cap at $2.32B, most recent closing price at $24.60.

11.01 days to cover.


2. The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (HAIN, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Together with its subsidiaries, manufactures, markets, distributes, and sells natural and organic food, and personal care products in the United States and internationally. Market cap at $4.44B, most recent closing price at $93.06.

11.23 days to cover.


3. Quidel Corp. (QDEL, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Engages in the development, manufacture, and marketing of diagnostic testing solutions for applications primarily in infectious diseases, and reproductive and women's health. Market cap at $1.02B, most recent closing price at $30.47.

32.77 days to cover. 


4. Green Plains Renewable Energy, Inc. (GPRE, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Engages in the production, marketing, and distribution of ethanol and related distillers grains in the United States. Market cap at $640.96M, most recent closing price at $21.19.

11.51 days to cover. 


5. Pinnacle Financial Partners Inc. (PNFP, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Operates as the bank holding company for Pinnacle National Bank, which provides commercial banking services to individuals, small-to medium-sized businesses, and professional entities in Tennessee. Market cap at $1.15B, most recent closing price at $33.74.

15.45 days to cover. 


(List compiled by Kevin Matras for Zacks Investment Research. You can find the original here.)

Disclosure: Officers, directors and/or employees of Zacks Investment Research may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material. An affiliated investment advisory firm may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material. 

Disclosure: Performance information for Zacks’ portfolios and strategies are available here.

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