Cannabis stocks litter the list of most expensive bearish bets

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Bearish investors who want to short marijuana stocks remain plentiful, despite the big three-day bounce in the cannabis sector, as the list of stocks with the highest borrowing costs for a short sale includes many in the marijuana business.

A bearish investor first needs to borrow a stock, then sell the stock with the expectation it will be repurchased at a lower price for a profit before the borrowed stock is returned.

But a short seller incurs the cost of a “borrow fee” which is the interest charged to borrow a stock before it is shorted.

Of the 10 stocks with the highest borrowing fees, four are U.S.-listed pot stocks, according to data provided by Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics at S3 Partners.

Then in addition there is the risk of a loss in principle by having to buy the shorted stock back at a higher price.

For example, the ETFMG Alternative Harvest exchange-traded fund MJ, +7.61%  surged 8.4% in afternoon trading Thursday, and has run up 15.8% amid a three-day win streak, since closing at a record low of $16.07 on Monday. The ETF was still down 28.3% over the past three months, while the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.20%  was up 6.1%. See Cannabis Watch.

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The fee to borrow Aurora Cannabis Inc.’s stock ACB, +15.53% ACB, +19.29%  was the third highest overall, and the highest of the four cannabis stocks, at 66.55% as of Wednesday. That means it cost an annualized $1.75, or 1.3 cents a day, to short one Aurora stock at Wednesday’s closing price of $2.64. So a year from now, the shorted stock would have to be bought back at 89 cents just to break even.

Also read: Cannabis stocks soar across the board as historic House vote lures investors back to battered sector.

Aurora’s borrowing fee compares with fees of 0.3% to 0.5% for “general collateral” stocks, or those of large-capitalization companies with enough shares outstanding that finding enough shares to borrow would never a problem.

Borrowing fees for shares of Apple Inc. AAPL, -0.61%  and Tesla Inc. TSLA, +1.12%  were 0.3%, while the stock with the highest borrowing fee was Revlon Inc.’s REV, -4.11%  at 75.05%, according to S3 data.

The high cost to short Aurora’s stock comes after it plunged 17.0% last Friday, and 16.5% on Monday, after the company reported disappointing quarterly results and said it planned to cut spending.

The other three weed stocks with the highest borrow fees were 63.05% for Tilray Inc. TLRY, +8.37%  , 47.05% for Hexo Corp. HEXO, +29.47% HEXO, +32.81%  and Aphria Inc.’s APHA, +8.55% APHA, +11.19%  40.8%.

Another cannabis stock that made the top 20 list is Canopy Growth Corp.’s CGC, +14.12% WEED, +16.94%  at 25.8%.

The willingness to pay high fees to hold short positions in pot stocks comes after the sector has been beaten up for months, amid a series of scandals, regulatory uncertainty and disappointing financial results.

See related: Cannabis companies are having a horrible summer as scandals mount and stocks slide.

Aurora’s stock tops another dubious list of U.S.-traded stocks, with a minimum short interest value of $50 million, with the largest daily stock borrowing expense. The value of Aurora stock shorted was $388.9 million as of Wednesday, implying a combined total borrow cost of $718,975 per day.

Others high on the list were Canopy at $455,656 a day, Tilray at $290,243 a day and Aphria at $165,384 a day.

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