What happened

Quick, what's the most-shorted stock on the U.S. market just now?

It's likely your guess wasn't Apple (AAPL 1.12%), as it's an enduringly popular stock anchoring a tech brand beloved by millions.

No one likes to hear that their company tops the list of short interest, so investors traded Apple down on Thursday, following the reveal. At the end of the day, the company's share price had slipped by nearly 2%.

So what

The entity behind this revelation is short-interest researcher S3 Partners, which found that Apple recently unseated electric-vehicle (EV) maker Tesla (TSLA 1.35%) for the No. 1 most-shorted crown. All told, said position -- i.e., the total value of shares borrowed for shorting purposes -- is just over $18.4 billion for Apple. That tops the current $17.4 billion-plus for Tesla.

The EV company wasn't easy to dislodge. S3 Partners said that the frequently volatile Tesla was the most-shorted stock for 864 days straight, i.e. nearly 2 1/2 years, dating back to April 2020. In a research note, S3 Partners said that, "The change in the top spot in the short interest rankings was primarily based on short sellers cutting their TSLA exposure and not a huge jump in AAPL short selling."

But the "shorts" might also consider Apple vulnerable, given the anticipated slowdown in China -- a key market for the company. Worries about discretionary consumer spending in the face of inflation might also be leading some to effectively place a bet against the company's success.

Now what

While this development is something to keep an eye on, it does need some perspective. Compared to Tesla, Apple is a massively capitalized beast. Its total market cap is over $2.4 trillion (yes, that's trillion), with over 16 billion shares outstanding.

Tesla's figures are a respective $918 billion and 3 billion-plus. So proportionally, Tesla is much more heavily shorted, at 1.9% of outstanding shares, versus only 0.7% for Apple.