Short sellers ganging up on oil companies

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Traders smelling blood—or maybe oil—in the water have piled into shorts against energy-related companies.

Recent data regarding which companies market participants are betting against show a strong movement against those whose fortunes are tied to the slump in oil prices.

Specifically, exploration and production companies saw short interest jump 12 percent in the aggregate for the final two weeks of 2014, according to a breakdown from Sterne Agee analysts using New York Stock Exchange data. Short selling happens when traders borrow shares of a stock, sell them to a third party and repurchase later in hopes of pocketing the difference when the shares drop in value.

Oasis Petroleum led the sector, with a 45.9 percent increase, while Pioneer Natural Resources saw short growth of 45.2 percent and Chesapeake Energy increased 31.9 percent.