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For the month ending Jan. 25, short sellers pulled back a bit from bearish bets on the direction of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), as proxied by the short position in the iShares S&P/TSX 60 ETF (XIU-T) edging down from 72.7 million to 67.3 million units. The XIU’s percentage of float sold short also inched down, from 21 per cent to 19.8 per cent.

Companies targeted by activist short sellers

Breakout Point GmbH recently reported on the global trades of activist short sellers for 2021. In the case of Canada, 12 companies were targeted in 2021, compared to 16 in 2020. Activist short sellers publish sell recommendations on companies and disseminate their bearish views through social and/or conventional media channels.

This group of short sellers was very successful in 2021: shares in the 12 targeted Canadian companies are all down, with an average decline of 53.1 per cent. The average drop for the 135 companies targeted globally (mostly in the United States) was 42.1 per cent. Night Market Research had the best call in Canada with its short position in Mountain Valley MD Holdings Inc. tumbling by 87.5 per cent.

The 12 Canadian companies target by activist short sellers in 2021

Exro Technologies Inc.EXRO-T-48.8Mar. 2Mariner
Mountain Valley HDMVMD-CN-87.5Mar. 25Night Market
WELL Health Tech.WELL-T-33.9Apr. 23Grizzly
PyroGenesis Canada Inc.PYR-T-42.4Apr. 28Mariner
Cielo Waste Corp.CMC-T-73.8Ma. 28Night Market
Reconnaissance EnergyRECO-T-56.0Jun. 24Viceroy
Flora Growth Corp.FLGC-T-81.0Aug. 26White Diamond
Lightspeed CommerceLSPD-T-58.6Sept. 29Spruce Point
Peak Fintech Group Inc.PKK-T-40.0Oct. 4Grizzly
The Metals CompanyTMC-T-59.9Oct. 6Bonitas
Standard Lithium Ltd.SLI-T-13.4Nov. 18Blue Orca
Nuvei Corp.NVEI-T-42.1Dec. 8Spruce Point

Source: Breakout Point

Short sales by the Canada Pension Plan

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) has established short positions in the shares of quite a few companies on behalf of Canadians and their retirements. According to, there are at least four significant CPPIB trades where the percentage of a company’s market capitalization sold short is relatively high: Aixtron SE (2.6 per cent), Onconova Therapeutics Inc. (2.6 per cent), Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. (2.2 per cent), and Danimer Scientific Inc. (1.9 per cent).

The short interest in these four companies were established on European stock markets. CPPIB’s positions in Virgin Galactic and Danimer Scientific stock were raised substantially in January. Their prices both fell by more than 35 per cent during the month.

We know about these four trades because there is a regulatory requirement in Europe for short sellers to disclose positions above a given threshold. Markets in North America do not have the same reporting requirement, so the CPPIB’s short positions on the TSX or in the United States are not as easily available.

Largest short positions by percentage of float

Data analytics firm S3 Partners identifies companies with the highest percentage of float sold short. Many of the Canadian companies in the top 20 for this month have carried over from the previous month, led once again by Air Canada (33.6 per cent). For this month, newcomers are: Silver Elephant Mining Corp., Fidelity International High Dividend ETF, Horizons US Dollar ETF and Lithium Americas Corp.

Canopy Growth and Lion Electric saw noteworthy jumps in their short positions while iShares S&P/TSX Energy ETF and Sundial Growers Inc. saw noteworthy declines. Short squeeze candidates are Silver Elephant Mining Corp. and Briacell Therapeutics Corp., given the substantial price increases in their stocks year-to-date.

Top 20 short positions by percentage of float (Jan. 25)


Air CanadaAC-T33.67
Canopy Growth Corp.WEED-T25.82
Lion Electric Co.LEV-T22.59
iShares S&P/TSX Energy ETFXEG-T20.24
Silver Elephant Mining Corp.ELEF-T20.21
iShares S&P/TSX 60 ETFXIU-T19.85
Aurora Cannabis Inc.ACB-T19.77
Hexo Corp.HEXO-T19.59
Meta Materials Inc.MMAT-Q16.06
Exco Technologies Ltd.XTC-T14.8
Fidelity Int High Dividend ETFFCID-T14.31
Ballard Power SystemsBLDP-T13.78
Tilray Inc.TLRY-T13.7
Energy Fuels Inc.EFR-T13.4
Horizons Us Dollar ETFDLR-T13.27
Briacell Therapeutics Corp.BCT-T13.13
Dirtt Environmental SolutionsDRT-T13.09
Morguard REITMRT-UN-T12.59
Sundial Growers Inc.SNDL-Q12.58
Lithium Americas Corp.LAC-T12.57

Source: S3 Partners

Largest increases in short positions by dollar value

During the month to Jan. 25, mostly financial and resource companies had the largest increases in short sales by dollar amount.

Top 20 increases in short positions by dollar value (Jan. 25)

TD BankTD-T$728.4
Canadian Natural ResourcesCNQ-T$578.5
TC Energy Corp.TRP-T$541.4
Bank of MontrealBMO-T$410.6
Enbridge Inc.ENB-T$393.3
Royal Bank of CanadaRY-T$346.5
Bank of Nova ScotiaBNS-T$284.5
Manulife FinancialMFC-T$262.4
Natl Bank of CanadaNA-T$208.9
Cenovus EnergyCVE-T$204.3
First Quantum MineralsFM-T$199.1
BMO S&P/TSX Banks ETFZEB-T$196.9
Barrick Gold Corp.ABX-T$189.4
Teck Resources Ltd. BTECK-B-T$124.9
Magna InternationalMG-T$115.1
Lundin Mining Corp.LUN-T$105.3
Agnico Eagle MinesAEM-T$99.5
Fortis Inc.FTS-T$97.8
Franco-Nevada CorpFNV-T$96.5

Source: S3 Partners

Largest decreases in short positions by dollar value

During the month to Jan. 25, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. had an enormous decrease of $8.7 billion in its short position. The rail-transportation company recently completed its acquisition of Kansas City Southern, so the drop likely reflects an unwinding of merger-arbitrage trades.

Top 20 decreases in short positions by dollar value (Jan. 25)

CP RailwayCP-T-$8,724.2
iShares S&P/TSX 60 ETFXIU-T-$708.0
iShares Core S&P/TSXXIC-T-$653.2
Bmo S&P 500 ETFZSP-T-$372.9
Shopify IncSHOP-T-$334.3
Lululemon AthleticaLULU-N-$250.1
Brookfield Asset MgtBAM.A-T-$248.6
Tilray IncTLRY-T-$139.3
Aurinia Pharmaceuticals IncAUPH-Q-$132.3
Ishs Core Msci Eafe ETFXEF-T-$123.0
Restaurant Brands InterQSR-T-$121.2
Nutrien Ltd.NTR-T-$97.5
Rogers Communications BRCI.B-T-$95.4
Emera IncEMA-T-$82.8
BCE IncBCE-T-$74.0
Hive Blockchain TechnologyHIVE-T-$71.9
Thomson Reuters Corp.TRI-T-$69.1
Abcellera Biologics Inc.ABCL-Q-$67.7
Brookfield InfrastructureBIP.U-T-$63.5
Dye Durham Ltd.DND-T-$61.9

Source: S3 Partners

Canadian stocks with short squeeze potential

Financial data firm assesses Canadian stocks for their short squeeze potential. The top 20 of their 50 candidates are shown below.

Josemaria Resources IncJOSE-T
Frontera Energy Corp.FEC-T
Talon Metals CorpTLO-T
Goodfood Market CorpFOOD-T
Yangarra Resources LtdYGR-T
Gear Energy LtdGXE-T
Nomad Royalty Co LtdNSR-T
Surge Energy IncSGY-T
Clarke IncCKI -T
Greenpower Motor CoGPV-X
Anaergia IncANRG-T
Great Bear Resources Ltd.GBR-T
Supremex IncSXP-T
Saturn Oil & Gas IncSOIL-X
Baylin Technologies IncBYL-T
Mogo IncMOGO-T
Nevada Copper CorpNCU-T
STEP Energy Services LtdSTEP-T
Haivision Systems IncHAI-T


Larry MacDonald blogs at Investing Journey.

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Tickers mentioned in this story

Study and track financial data on any traded entity: click to open the full quote page. Data updated as of 14/06/24 9:49am EDT.

SymbolName% changeLast
Ishares S&P TSX 60 Index ETF
Canadian Pacific Kansas City Ltd
Canopy Growth Corp
Mountain Valley MD Holdings Inc
Air Canada
Lion Electric CO [The]
Ishares S&P TSX Capped Energy Index ETF
Silver Elephant Mining Corp
Toronto-Dominion Bank
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.
TC Energy Corp

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