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Why United Natural Foods Stock Was Climbing Today

By Jeremy Bowman - Jan 26, 2021 at 7:06PM

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A short squeeze and a debt refinancing gave the stock a lift.

What happened

Shares of United Natural Foods (UNFI -6.92%) finished up 11.4% today as the company announced a renegotiation of its term loan and also seemed to benefit from a short squeeze as it was one of several heavily shorted stocks that jumped today.

So what

United Natural Foods, a grocery wholesaler for chains like Whole Foods, said this morning that it had repriced its senior secured term loan facility, which reduced its interest rate by 50 to 75 basis points on $1.8 billion in debt due in 2026. That will save the company approximately $9 million to $13 million, and shows its debt profile is improving with lenders.

The produce section of a supermarket.

Image source: Getty Images.

While that news is a step in the right direction for UNFI, it seems unlikely to have driven the stock up double digits. Instead, a widespread short squeeze that started with Gamestop and has moved on to other stocks seems to have helped lift United Natural Foods shares today.

UNFI stock finished last month with a third of the float sold short, making it ripe for a short squeeze. Trading volume was also double its normal level today, and the stock rose by a similar amount yesterday on no news, showing that this was the second day of the short squeeze.

Now what

UNFI shares have been on a tear since Jan. 11, nearly doubling since then even though there's been no major news out on the stock. That seems to indicate an extended squeeze flushing out short sellers.

The food wholesaler was already a pandemic winner, benefiting from a spike in demand for groceries as restaurants have been limited, and the stock nearly doubled in 2020. Short sellers seem to believe that those gains are fleeting, but recent events in the market are proving that it's unwise to bet on stocks to fall. The squeeze could continue, especially if other stocks like Gamestop continue to rise.

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