Feb 13 (Reuters) - Short selling of U.S.-listed companies from China and Hong Kong has climbed since the coronavirus outbreak was confirmed on Jan. 20, according to the latest report from S3, a provider of short interest and securities finance data.
Short sellers bet that a securities price will fall by borrowing a stock with a view to buying it back later at a lower price to cover the bet and make a profit.
S3 said that $751 million new shares were shorted in the 494 U.S.-traded Chinese and Hong Kong stocks the company tracks, bringing total short interest in those stocks to $27.27 billion.
But it noted that most of the new short-selling occurred in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), with an increase of $815 million worth of shorted shares bringing the total Chinese/Hong Kong ETF short interest to $3.75 billion.
S3 said it expects to see continued short-selling in Chinese/Hong Kong stocks and that this would happen primarily in the U.S. market as Chinese regulators limit short-selling on China's exchanges.
In particular, the firm said stocks in travel, food retail and brick-and-mortar retailing would continue to take the brunt of the shorting trend because they are more directly affected by the Chinese authorities' efforts to limit mobility to try to contain the virus.
But it said internet-related securities should see short-covering as traffic flow increases among users who are stuck at home and investors eye a short-term boost to revenue at those companies.
On the equity side companies in the category with the largest amount of new short-selling since the virus outbreak included Trip.com Group Ltd, with an increase of $245.4 million worth of shares sold short, Luckin Coffee Inc with an increase of $151.8 million and the U.S. shares of Tencent Holdings Ltd , with a $71.6 million increase.
Other companies with a noticeable increase in short-selling included Yum China Holdings Inc, China Mobile Ltd , Momo Inc and Weibo Corp, according to S3.
Companies seeing a significant short-covering included JD.com Inc, Baidu Inc and IQIYI Inc. JD.com shares shorted fell by $314.1 million while Baidu shares shorted fell by $155.8 million and IQIYI shares shorted were reduced by $155.8 million. (Reporting by Sinéad Carew; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)