Trading Nation

The bears are jumping on these stocks

Where short interest is surging

Over the past two weeks, the bears have pounced on six stocks: U.S. Steel, Diamond Offshore, Abercrombie & Fitch, Seadrill, GoPro and Solar City.

Out of the six, U.S. Steel has seen its short interest rise the most, from 30.9 percent on Aug. 27 to 36.2 percent on Sept. 10, according to data compiled by Fundstrat Global Advisors. That means that of all the shares available for trading, more than a third are now held short.

Analyst Phil Gibbs of KeyBanc Capital Markets says the increase in short positions could be a result of the devaluation of China's yuan, which has sparked more concern about the country's economic growth.

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"People view that as emblematic of China raising the red flag," he said.

Slowing demand from China could put even more pressure on declining steel prices, Gibbs said, which have dealt a blow to U.S. Steel. He said the company is more susceptible to low steel prices than others in the industry, due to an inflexible operating model.

Shares of the steel stalwart have tumbled nearly 50 percent this year.

U.S. Steel has also suffered from decreasing domestic demand and exposure to the energy market, Gibbs said.

"Steel demand is kind of stuck in purgatory in the short term," Gibbs said. "And with steel prices going down, they're getting hit on both ends."

Diamond Offshore has done nearly as badly. Similarly exposed to the commodity complex, that energy equipment name has been beleaguered by an oversupply of oil rigs and falling oil prices.

"It's a tough time for DO [Diamond Offshore] and its peers," said Michael LaMotte, analyst at Guggenheim Securities. "With demand likely even weaker now, the excess capacity in the market is exacerbated, which creates even greater utilization and pricing risk—especially for older rigs like those in DO's fleet."

In a similar space, offshore driller Seadrill saw a comparable increase in short activity over the two-week period. And troubled teen retail company Abercrombie & Fitch, which already had relatively high short interest, saw more bears pile in.

Rounding out the list are so-called cult stocks GoPro and SolarCity, two speculative companies in which investors have sniffed out attractive long-term prospects. Both have suffered a decline in market sentiment lately, with SolarCity sliding 10 percent on the year, and GoPro down 45 percent in the past month alone.

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