June 15, 2017 / 5:56 PM / 2 months ago

Shorts hold fire against big tech names as U.S. sector slides

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, NY, U.S. May 18, 2017.Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The current sell-off in U.S. technology shares has brought rare good news for short sellers, but they are not in any rush to boost their bearish bets against the shares of the biggest tech companies, data from financial analytics firm S3 Partners showed.

Technology stocks fell sharply on Thursday, extending a decline from last week, as investors continued to back away from the top-performing sector this year.

The slide brought much-needed relief for short sellers, who aim to make a profit by selling borrowed shares on the hope of buying them back later at a lower price.

The technology sector's 17 percent gain this year has drawn significant short bets as speculators counted on a pullback.

While the sector's first big stumble this year drew some added interest in bearish bets - the Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund drew $150 million of new short bets in the latest week - traders have largely steered clear of boosting bets against the biggest names in the sector.

Through Wednesday, the cumulative short interest for a basket of six big tech stocks - Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon.com Inc and Netflix - has fallen by $1.40 billion to $30.62 billion so far in June, according to S3 Partners data.

"Short interest has either stayed relatively flat or decreased for these tech stocks," said Ihor Dusaniwsky, head of research at S3 Partners.

"The drop in the tech sector was due to long shareholders selling their long positions and not shorts increasing their exposure."

The recent weakness in the shares of these tech titans has resulted in paper profits of $672 million for short sellers so far this month.

"For the most part, short tech positions were profitable, recouping some of their year-to-date losses but (they) were not looking to build their positions," Dusaniwsky said.

For the year, short sellers who targeted the six companies are still down $5.13 billion, according to S3 Partners data.

Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Dan Grebler

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