Netflix Shorts Are Tough as Nails

Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) short-sellers have a tremendously high pain threshold. I mean, they can sleep on nail beds and crushed glass. Drink molten iron for breakfast. Chuck Norris might be shorting the stock, judging by the toughness requirements.

You know the story. By the middle of January, Netflix had 22% of its float sold short, and a crucial earnings report on deck. The report was everything shareholders dreamed of and short-sellers feared. Share prices jumped 42% the next day and another 17% the day after that.

You'd think this action would shake out a lot of short-sellers. After all, the potential downside to being short is pretty much unlimited -- especially with a highly volatile stock like Netflix. And it's not always up to the shorters when to cover their bearish positions. Their hands may be forced by margin calls.

Well, the next report on short-sale statistics is out, and Netflix is still followed by a large herd of bears. As of Jan. 31, the negative bets had shrunk by just 4%. There's still plenty of room for a drastic short squeeze.

Now, the exchanges don't provide a whole lot of detail other than shorted share counts. It's entirely possible that Netflix experienced a short squeeze in January, but that an inflow of new thumbs-down bets replaced many of the covered positions.

History might add some steel to your stomach lining. Looking back at charts from 2012, Netflix delivered another big January jump but followed up with a severe drop on the April report. That time, investors didn't like the prospect of increased seasonality doing damage to the upcoming slow summer months.

That could happen again, proving the bears right for a while. As I said, this stock swings like Austin Powers. Or, the company could reap the rewards of its House of Cards investment while international markets mature. In that case, we'll test the Norris-like resolve of short-sellers again.

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