What Is Short Interest? A Complete Guide On What Short Interest Tells Us

Short sellers frequently make incorrect assumptions about a stock as it can be quite tricky to comprehend. If you’re confused about what is short interest or want to learn about short interest in detail, then go through this article to get a detailed understanding of short interest.

Some of you may already be aware that short selling enables one to profit from a stock’s decline. It should not be surprising that it is possible to short sell stocks, given how frequently they rise and fall in value. As a result, brokerage departments and companies exist whose main objective is to investigate declining companies that make excellent short-selling targets.

These companies carefully examine financial statements in search of flaws that the market might not have yet discounted or a company that is merely overvalued. They take into account a number of variables, one of which is short interest, which we’ll go into more detail about in this article.

For investors to profit from stocks, they don’t need to rise in value. The well-known short sell allows investors to make money even if the stock price declines.  The quantity of shares that have been sold short and are still on the market is known as the short interest.

Read this article if you want to get into the details of what is short interest and all the terms associated with short interest, like what is short squeeze including what short interest tells us so that you are fully equipped with knowledge regarding short interest and can make smart financial decisions in the future.

What is shorting a stock?

To put it simply, shorting a stock entails borrowing shares that you do not already own and selling them in anticipation that their value will decline. The investor can then buy those shares back at a discount and keep the money earned.

Let’s take the scenario where you are of the opinion that Company X is overvalued at the present share price of $100. Borrowing 100 shares and selling them for $100 apiece will enable you to short the stock.

If your predictions come true and the stock price falls to, say, $50 a share, you can close out your short position by repurchasing the 100 shares for $50 each, earning a profit of $500.

It’s necessary to highlight the two main hazards related to shorting before going further into the meaning of short interest.

Before getting into what is short interest, we need to cover the risks of shorting a stock. The drawback is that if the stock price increases, you lose money. This is due to the fact that you must buy the shares again at a greater cost.

Additionally, regardless of the stock price, your broker-dealer has the right to request that the position be closed out at any time. This demand, however, usually only comes about if the dealer-broker believes the borrower’s creditworthiness is too dangerous for the company.

How to short a stock?

Shortening a stock may sound simple, but the strategy comes with a lot of risks and dangers. So by just understanding the concept behind shortening a stock, you can’t be sure that now you are fully equipped with this technique. You might even have to go through trial and error. Following is the method to short a stock.

  • You will initially require a margin account. You will be required to pay interest on the outstanding debt if you borrow shares from the brokerage because it functions as a margin loan. Each brokerage has a different procedure for opening a margin account, but you’ll almost certainly need to get approved.
  • You must have enough cash or stock equity in that margin account to cover at least 50% of the value of the short position in order to execute the trade, as required by the Federal Reserve. You will be able to place a short-sell order in your brokerage account after this is met. It’s vital to understand that the money you get from the short sale cannot be liquidated.
  • The investor must hold at least 25% of the required minimum equity per exchange rules in their account to serve as collateral for the margin loan in order to sustain the short position. Although brokerages may have a greater minimum, this will depend on the volatility of the stocks and the entire value of the investor’s positions.
  • You can retain the short position (the borrowed shares) for as long as you require, whether a few hours or weeks. Just keep in mind that you’ll be paying interest on those borrowed shares for as long as you keep them, and you’ll also need to meet the margin requirements throughout the duration.
  • If the stock price falls, you will close your short position by purchasing the borrowed shares at a lower price and returning them to the brokerage. Remember that in order to make a profit, you must factor in the amount you will pay in interest, commission, and fees.

What is short interest?

To understand what is short interest, we must first discuss short sales. Simply put, a short sale is the sale of a stock that an investor does not own. Two things can happen when an investor engages in short selling.

If the stock price falls, the short seller can acquire it at a lower price and profit. If the stock’s price rises, the short seller will lose money. An investor may engage in short selling for a variety of reasons, including profiting from a decrease in the price of a company or hedging the risk of other positions.

An investor opens a short position by placing a short sale order with their brokerage firm on a stock that they do not own. This is accomplished through the use of a margin account. Because the investor does not possess the shares, the brokerage firm will try to “find” them before completing the short sale. These shares could be found in the brokerage firm’s inventory, other customers’ margin accounts, or another source.


When the trade is completed, the proceeds of the sale will be shown in the investor’s margin account. Finally, the investor must acquire these securities in order to close the position. Until that happens, the investor’s account will show a short position. To settle the position, the investor might buy the stock in the market at a lower price than when they sold the shares short.

“Short interest” is a snapshot of all open short positions for all equities securities on the books and records of brokerage companies on a given date. Short interest data is collected for all equities, including those that are listed and traded on an exchange and those that are traded over the counter (OTC).

FINRA and US exchange laws require brokerage companies to disclose short interest data to FINRA on a per-security basis for all client, and proprietary firm accounts twice a month, around the middle of the month, and again at the end of each month.

For equities listed on a U.S. exchange, FINRA and other financial regulatory authorities share the data with the listing exchange, which is then responsible for making the data available to the general investing public. In the case of OTC stocks, FINRA makes that information available for free on the Over-the-Counter Equities page.

How does short interest operate?

The idea of short interest is a fundamental part of the short-selling phenomenon. When a company’s share price exhibits a dominant downward trend, investors may perceive a chance to profit from the declining price.

Therefore, short sellers borrow such shares, sell them, then repurchase them from the owner at a lower price than the selling price to profit from price disparities. Based on variables, including the strength of a declining trend, short sellers determine the time interval between sale and repurchase.

Investors can determine the current sentiment toward the stock in the market using the SI value. A widespread misconception is that a rise in short interest value indicates that investors are more aware of the negative trend in stock prices.

On the other hand, a falling short interest value indicates that investors are betting on a rising stock price trend. In essence, pessimistic investors have high short interest values, and investors who are bullish exhibit low short interest values.

A rise in short sales might also hint at the likelihood of a future stock price crash. In addition to being a sign of poor governance practices, excessive risk-taking, and a wide information gap between managers and shareholders, short selling is also a sign of several other factors.

An increase in short interest value does not always portend an impending slump; it might equally portend an uptrend. Supporters of short interest believe that the downward trend will be followed by an ascending trend.

Furthermore, short squeezers buy stocks while panicked short sellers begin repurchasing stocks in an effort to avoid suffering significant losses if the projected price drop is replaced by a price increase. All of these result in high demand, driving up prices and establishing an upward trend.

What is not short interest?

FINRA and other financial regulators further release short sale volume data in addition to short interest data. For all off-exchange short sale deals, the Daily Short Sale Volume data provides aggregated volume by security. Any trading activity that is not made public or that is not combined with exchange data is not included in this data.

Because the Short Sale Volume Daily File shows volume that is significantly bigger than the positions reported as short interest, several market participants wrongly believe that the bimonthly short interest data is overstated. The daily short sale volume data published on FINRA’s website or other financial regulatory organizations’ websites are not equivalent to the short interest position data and are not intended to be.

The short interest data only represents short positions held by brokerage companies on two specified days each month at a certain point in time. The total volume of trades that met certain criteria and were completed as short sells on specific trade dates is shown in the short sale volume daily file. The two data sets are, therefore, not the same even if they are related in that short sale volume activity may eventually lead to a reportable short interest position.

Short positions in a security may be established by investors and continue to exist for variable amounts of time, resulting in a short position being recorded in one of the data sets but not the other. An investor, for example, may sell a securities short and then buy shares to settle the position on the same transaction date. The position would not be included in the short interest data, but the short sale transaction would be included in the Short Sale Volume Daily File.

An investor, on the other hand, may hold a short position open for days or weeks, sometimes as a hedge against another position. While the short sale transaction that produced that short position would display only on the date the short sale transaction happened, the short position would be recorded in the short interest statistics for as long as the position remained open.

How do investors use short interest data?

Data on short interest is used by seasoned investors and traders to guide their investing decisions. Rising short interest on a specific stock is frequently a sign that investors are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the stock. In other words, it might be time to liquidate a long position if there is a significant rise in short interest, which could indicate that investors are getting ready to sell.

On the other hand, if the short interest on an asset is declining, it can indicate that investors are turning bullish. A drop in short interest may also indicate that traders are abandoning their negative positions and moving to the sidelines.

What do I need to know about short interest data?

Some websites may redistribute the Short Sale Volume Daily File and refer to the data as “short interest,” but this is erroneous because, as described above, short sale volume data is not the same as short interest position data. Furthermore, the specific information an investor sees depends on the source.

Frequently, the data displayed on free investor sites is the result of a proprietary calculation rather than the actual short interest data disseminated by FINRA and the exchanges. Different data providers may utilize different methodologies for computing and displaying short-sale information, which is beyond FINRA’s control. Investors are recommended to acquire information from the data supplier in order to understand how the data shown is derived.

What does short interest indicate?

Short selling allows a person to profit from a declining stock, which is useful because stock values fluctuate. There are brokerage departments and corporations whose only duty is to research deteriorating companies that are ideal candidates for short-selling.

These firms scour financial accounts for flaws that the market hasn’t yet identified or for a company that is just overvalued. One of the factors they consider is short interest, which serves as a market sentiment indicator.

Short interest can reveal information about a stock’s possible course and how bullish or negative investors feel about the market as a whole. Investors have a tool to utilize as a benchmark for short-selling thanks to stock exchanges, which track, report on, and publish monthly reports on short interest.

A significant change from the previous month in the short interest in a company can reveal investor mood. When the percentage of investors expecting the stock price to fall doubles, the short interest for a stock may go from 10% to 20%, which could be a sign that investor sentiment is becoming more unfavorable about the company.

The number of short shares can also be transformed into a ratio, commonly known as days to cover, by dividing it by the average daily trading volume. The short interest ratio calculates how long it would take for all of a stock’s shorted shares to be covered or repurchased in the market.

Short interest demonstrates the sentiment

The entire amount of shares of a specific stock that have been sold short by investors but have not yet been covered or closed out is known as short interest. This might be stated as a percentage or as a number.

Short interest is calculated as the number of shorted shares divided by the total number of outstanding shares. For instance, the short interest on a firm with 10 million shares outstanding and 1.5 million shares sold short is 15% (1.50 million/10 million).

The majority of stock exchanges keep track of the short interest in each stock and publish reports at the end of each month, while Nasdaq is one of those that publish reports twice a month. These reports are important for traders because they let them see what short-sellers are doing, which enables them to assess the general market mood surrounding a certain company.

How are changes in short interest influenced by the news?

A significant swing in a stock’s short interest from the previous month can be a very telling sign of investors’ sentiments. Let’s assume that Microsoft’s short interest rose by 10% during a single month. This indicates that the proportion of those who think the stock price will fall has increased by 10%.

Investors have a compelling motive to learn more in light of such a substantial move. To find out what is going on with the business and the reasons why more investors are selling the stock, we would need to check the most recent news reports and recent research.

Even a stock with a high short interest rate should be approached with extreme caution; it is not always necessary to shun it. Like all investors, short sellers have made mistakes and aren’t flawless. In reality, a lot of contrarian investors utilize short interest as a gauge for the market’s direction.

According to this logic, if everyone is selling, the stock has already reached its low and can only rise. Due to the fact that short sellers will eventually cover their short positions, contrarians believe that a high short interest ratio is positive since it will put strong upward pressure on the stock price.

How to interpret short interest?

Short interest is a sentiment indicator, and sometimes interpreting it can be quite difficult, especially for people who are new to trading. Now that we’ve thoroughly gone over “what is short interest,” let’s see how it can be interpreted. The interpretation is as follows:

  • Increase in Short % → Bearish Sentiment
  • Decrease in Short % → Bullish Sentiment

Short interest generally raises red flags when it exceeds 10% of a company’s float.

There is, however, one caveat that is relevant to businesses with a disproportionately high rate of short interest. A “short squeeze” is a condition where a highly shorted firm performs better than anticipated, which could quickly cause a small share price to quickly escalate sharply. If you keep reading, you’ll learn about “what is short squeeze” in detail.

The congested market of purchasers trying to leave by repurchasing shares all at once creates a shortage as short sellers attempt to close off their short positions (and share prices to increase). There are two ways that significant shorting activities on particular equities can be interpreted from the perspective of short sellers.

  1. The high percentage of short positions demonstrates that the same view is held by many other market investors.
  2. Given that the stock is vulnerable to a short squeeze, a large number of short positions poses a significant risk. (Note that losses are not 100% capped because the potential downside for short positions is infinite).

What is the formula of short interest?

Let’s go back to the subject we briefly touched on earlier: how is short interest determined? By dividing the total number of short shares sold by the float of the company, you may obtain the precise numbers (the total number of shares available for trading). It’s important to keep in mind that short interest is often referred to as short float percentage.

Short Interest = number of shares sold short / number of tradable shares

For example, if Company X has 40 million shares outstanding and 400,000 shares sold short, its short interest would be calculated as follows:

400,000 / 40,000,000 = 0.01% of float outstanding

Since the short interest is usually represented as a percentage, the result must be multiplied by 100. While the float refers to the total number of shares available for purchase on the open markets, the number of shorted shares denotes the total number of short positions that are still open. If calculations aren’t your thing, you can turn to one of the many online stock brokers for assistance with the math as well as other advice and expertise.

What is the short interest ratio?

The short interest ratio, or SIR, is one of the essential variables that analysts use to assess market possibilities. The ratio is sometimes referred to as “days to cover,” and it illustrates how long it takes investors to close off an open position in the market if some positive news about the company raises the price. The formula for calculating it is as follows:

SIR = short interest / average daily trading volume

Let’s take 4,000 shares of Company X’s stock that investors have shorted as an example. The company’s daily trading volume is one thousand. The outcomes of applying the SIR calculation formula are as follows:

X’s short interest ratio = 4,000 shorted shares / 1,000 average daily trading volume = 4 days to cover

Now that we’ve understood how to calculate the short interest ratio, it’s important to keep in mind that a large number is considered unfavorable, and a low number is considered advantageous. With more days to close, there is a higher likelihood of a short squeeze. Hence this statistic can be used to help predict price fluctuations in the stock market.

What does the short interest ratio imply?

The short interest ratio is a financial mathematical indicator. It is determined by two variables: short interest and average daily trading volume. It eventually determines whether or not it is appropriate to short-sell.

The short interest ratio is low when the ADTV is high. The short interest ratio is large when the ADTV is low. Likewise, when overall short interest is high, the ratio is high; when total short interest is low, the ratio is low.

It illustrates how high or low the shorted shares are in comparison to the typical daily trading volume. When the short interest ratio is high, the number of shares repurchased in the open market following short selling is high. Similarly, a low short interest ratio indicates that a small number of shares will be repurchased in the open market following short selling.

What is the days-to-cover ratio?

The short interest ratio and the days-to-cover ratio are frequently used interchangeably. Like the short interest ratio, the days-to-cover ratio gauges the estimated number of days to cover a position on a company’s shorted shares.

As a result, the days-to-cover ratio essentially shows the total number of days for short sellers to repurchase their borrowed shares on the open market. Hence, when the days-to-cover ratio is large, it is a bearish indicator. Conversely, a low days-to-cover ratio is a bullish indication.

The NYSE short interest ratio

Another excellent tool for assessing market sentiment is the short interest ratio on the New York Stock Exchange. The NYSE short interest ratio is the same as short interest, with the exception that it is determined by dividing the average daily volume of the NYSE for the previous month by the monthly short interest on the entire exchange.

Assume there are 5 billion shares sold short in August, and the average daily volume on the NYSE for the same period is 1 billion shares per day. This gives us an NYSE short interest ratio of five (5 billion /1 billion). This suggests that it will take five days on average to cover the whole short position on the NYSE. In theory, a greater NYSE short interest ratio signals more adverse sentiment toward the exchange and, by extension, the global economy as a whole.

What is the difference between a short interest ratio and a short interest?

It is crucial to keep in mind that short interest and short interest ratio are two different concepts. The total number of shares that have been sold short in the market is measured as short interest. However, the short interest ratio is a means to calculate how long it would take to cover all of the shares that are currently being traded short.

What Is the difference between a put/call ratio and short interest?

The put/call ratio and short interest are both proxies for market sentiment. The quantity of outstanding short shares is the main concern of short interest. The options market provides the data for the put/call ratio. Calls are bullish wagers, whereas put options are bearish bets.

Another metric that can be used to identify whether investors anticipate price increases or decreases in the future changes in the put/call ratio. It will take at least 10 days on average for the shorts to be able to cover their bets when the total open interest is one million shares and the average daily trading volume is 100,000 shares.


What is a short squeeze?

A short squeeze starts when a stock’s price abruptly rises, gathers momentum, and a sizable number of short sellers rush to liquidate their holdings in an effort to reduce losses. This might lead to additional shorts being forced to cover, which would drive the stock higher in a vicious cycle.

Short squeezes occasionally occur with little warning. Unexpectedly positive news can trigger a stock price increase, which can lead to a short squeeze on a highly shorted stock. In this case, short sellers must be ready to act quickly to exit the situation.

This is a risky environment for short sellers, as you might expect. Additionally, some contrarian investors might purchase shares of companies with high short interest to profit from a possible short squeeze.

What happens when you get caught in the short squeeze?

High short interest is viewed as an opportunity by some bullish investors. The short interest hypothesis provides the foundation for this outlook. The thinking is that if you are short selling a stock and it continues to rise rather than decline, you should probably get out before you lose all of your money.

A short squeeze happens when short sellers are rushing to replace the stock they borrowed, driving up demand and pushing up prices. Smaller-cap stocks, which have a very low supply of shares on the market, tend to experience short squeezes more frequently, but large-cap firms are not exempt from this problem.

Short positions may be compelled to liquidate and cover their position by buying the stock if a stock has a high short interest rate. Price increases may be possible if a short squeeze takes place and enough short sellers purchase back the shares. Sadly, it is quite challenging to forecast this event.

How can you tell if a stock is being shorted?

Examining a company’s financial data will allow you to determine whether a stock is being shorted. The balance sheet will include a line item for “short-term investments” that will represent the company’s short interest. If any regulatory documents on the short-selling activity exist, you can also look them up on the exchanges where the stock is traded.

Limitations of using short interest

Being familiar with all the phrases used in short sales is one thing, but there are several things you should think about before you start short selling. The first is that short interest data isn’t always reliable.

Data on short interest are a good gauge of market sentiment, but they are not perfect. For instance, data on the total number of shares sold short for a specific stock may lag and/or not be totally accurate. Short interest figures can differ based on the source, and the time the data was reported, failing to take into account unforeseen market developments.

The short interest ratio is not a perfect metric. This indicator can be skewed if many shares are sold short on the last day of the reporting period, which makes the short interest ratio unnaturally high. You’ve probably heard of a high short interest ratio and the havoc it may cause in the market. That’s why you might be relieved to learn that more than 80% of the stock market is now computerized, focusing on short-term moves and sell-offs rather than long-term outlooks.

Furthermore, the data only shows what is occurring in the stock market at a specific moment in time. Even though the apparent short interest ratio can be minimal, it is possible that the perception of a specific stock could shift quickly, resulting in a short squeeze.


We started out by asking: what is short interest in stocks? Our guide thoroughly describes the nature of this metric, which may be used to gauge market mood and forecast price fluctuations. It shows the percentage of shares sold short but not yet covered.

Shorting a stock is a high-risk strategy that can result in significant losses if left to novice investors. However, shorting can be quite profitable and a terrific strategy to make money in the stock market. When done correctly, it can give investors a significant tool for hedging against downside risk.

So, what is short interest? In a nutshell, this is the proportion of shares sold short that have not yet been closed out. In this elaborate article, we’ve gone over everything you need to know about shorting stocks, including the dangers and benefits and some key tactics for doing so profitably.

Investors sometimes ignore this market indicator despite its general availability, even though it might be a useful indicator. A stock’s short interest should not, however, be the only factor taken into account when making an investment choice. The short interest requires fewer computations than the company’s fundamentals if any. Searching for short interest only takes thirty seconds, which can give you important information on investor sentiments about a specific business or exchange.