Since everyone loves a winner, it's reasonable to assume that everyone hates a loser -- everyone but short-sellers, at least. These contrarian investors bet that hot stocks are primed to fall, aiming to turn their pessimism into profits.

These companies recently had some of the largest percentage increases in shares sold short. Combining that with the collective intelligence of Motley Fool CAPS, we'll see which of these companies Fools believe have the power to make short work of short-sellers.


Shares Short
July 31

Shares Short
July 13

% Change

%  Float

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Taseko Mines (AMEX: TGB) 1.5 1.3 14.6% 0.8% ****
VirnetX (AMEX: VHC) 14.3 13.9 2.9% 34.1% *

Source: Share counts in millions.

Of course, this isn't a list of stocks to buy -- or short! These stocks could have serious problems that warrant their short interest, but they might also be stricken by short-term troubles. Only Foolish due diligence will tell you for certain; our 180,000-strong CAPS community offers just such a good place to start.

It's about time
After a string of "timing issues" led to significantly lower sales volumes of copper concentrate, it looks like copper and molybdenum miner Taseko Mines found the time to straighten things out. Second-quarter sales volumes surged 84% from the year-ago period, though molybdenum production tumbled 13% from the first quarter because of reduced recoveries, but it was still well ahead of last year's effort.

Taseko has been dealing with a number of issues in addition to its timing problems, including the shutdown of one of its mills, along with difficult "ore characteristics" and poor weather. Last month it was ordered to rewrite its environmental impact statement for its controversial Prosperity mine in British Columbia after it was accused of making a "misleading" statement regarding the potential for an earthquake-related environmental accident. It also failed to provide adequate information relating to the project's effect on the local environment and aboriginal rights. The government agency overseeing the project called the quality of Taseko's draft EIS report "very poor."

China, which accounts for 40% of worldwide copper demand, is experiencing a rapidly cooling economy that's affecting copper sales. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE: FCX) sold 7% fewer pounds of copper last quarter, while Rio Tinto saw copper revenue drop 22% because of lower shipments. Taseko, as mentioned, saw higher sales volumes as its timing issues were resolved, but now we have to see whether that will be a consistent performance or whether it will experience the turbulence of its peers.

I thought Taseko Mines had worked out the kinks last year, and I marked it to outperform the indexes on CAPS, but as the latest imbroglio with its Prosperity report shows, this is a troubled miner that can't seem to get its act straight, so I'll be closing out my CAPScall on the miner. Tell me in the comments section below if you think it will be able to overcome the obstacles it keeps putting in front of itself.

This seems easy to call
When you hold all the cards, you don't have to deal from the bottom of the deck. VirnetX Holding has the entire 4G and LTE security standards deck in its hands, and every card it flips these days seems to be an ace.

In patent infringement lawsuits against Avaya and Siemens Enterprise Communications, the district court judge holding the Markman order hearing denied their attempt to change the definitions of the patents in dispute and said they would remain what they are in similar cases VirnetX has against Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), and NEC. A Markman hearing irons out interpretations of various patent claims before a trial begins.

And speaking of Apple, a judge just slapped it with some onerous sanctions over its lawyer's conduct in the case that is probably going to be very damaging to its defense. NEC saw the writing on the wall and agreed to pay up in exchange for being taken off the infringement lawsuit.

Earlier this year, I read the tea leaves, too, and marked VirnetX Holdings on CAPS to outperform the market. According to the folks at iSuppli, capital spending on 4G and LTE standards will nearly triple over the next year to more than $24 billion and reach $36 billion by 2015. That makes me think someone's going to want to buy the security specialist outright. Tell me in the comments box below if you agree.

Don't sell yourself short
Share your views with the CAPS community: squeeze 'em till it hurts, or short 'em till the sun don't shine?

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.