What Is a Short Squeeze?
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What Is a Short Squeeze?

Basics

Short selling, a widely used trading technique, enables traders to capitalize on the decline in the price of an asset. It is an effective tool to manage downside risk, hedge existing holdings, or express a bearish outlook on the market. However, this trading strategy can entail significant risks due to short squeezes. Short squeezes occur when there is a sudden surge in the price of an asset, creating a precarious situation for many short sellers who find themselves trapped and eager to exit their positions swiftly.

To grasp the concept of a short squeeze, it is essential to comprehend the fundamentals of shorting, so if you are unfamiliar with this strategy, you should explore the definition and principle of its work. This article will delve into the intricacies of short squeezes, explore methods to prepare for them, and even outline how one can profit from them through a long position.

What Is a Short Squeeze?

When many short sellers are compelled to exit their positions, a short squeeze happens, causing a rapid escalation in the price of an asset. Short sellers engage in wagers that the price of an asset will decline. However, if the price unexpectedly rises, their short positions accumulate unrealized losses. As the price continues to surge, short sellers must close their positions. Such closures can transpire through stop-loss triggers, liquidations related to margin and futures contracts, or the manual closure of positions by traders seeking to avert further losses.

But how do these short sellers close their positions? They have to buy. Consequently, a short squeeze occurs, resulting in a significant asset price surge. Closing short positions triggers a cascade of buy orders, further intensifying the upward momentum. A short squeeze is typically accompanied by a proportional rise in trading volume. The level of short interest has a significant impact on trapping short sellers and forcing them to close their positions. The amount of available liquidity for trapping corresponds to the level of volatility during a short squeeze. Essentially, a short squeeze is a temporary increase in demand along with a simultaneous decrease in supply.

Although less common, long squeezes involve a similar phenomenon. A long squeeze occurs when long investors are caught in a series of selling pressure, leading to a rapid and significant drop in the price of the asset.

How Does a Short Squeeze Work?

A short squeeze occurs when there is a sudden surge in buying pressure, leading to an increase in stock prices. This trading strategy comes with significant risks. However, the short squeeze phenomenon brings about a higher level of volatility, mainly due to the rapid rush to cover short positions through buy orders. This includes triggering multiple stop-loss orders at a critical price level and the simultaneous manual closure of positions by many short sellers.

The occurrence of a short squeeze is not limited to any particular financial market where short positions can be initiated. Conversely, the absence of viable options for shorting a market can contribute to the formation of significant price bubbles. Without a feasible means to bet against an asset, its upward trajectory may persist for an extended duration.

A crucial prerequisite for a short squeeze lies in the predominance of short positions over long positions. Naturally, a significant disparity between short and long positions fosters a surplus of liquidity that fuels the intensification of the squeeze. Therefore, the long/short ratio becomes a valuable tool for astute traders seeking to gauge market sentiment.

Seasoned traders often seek potential opportunities to capitalize on short squeezes by adopting a long position, thereby profiting from the ensuing rapid price spike. This strategy entails accumulating a position ahead of the squeeze and skillfully leveraging the sudden surge to sell at an elevated price point.

Varied Scenarios of Short Squeezes

Short squeezes often happen in the stock market. They usually occur when there is low market sentiment about a particular company, an apparent belief that the stock price is too high, and a large number of short positions. If unexpectedly positive news comes out, it forces the closure of these short positions through buying, which then drives the stock price up. However, it's important to understand that a short squeeze is primarily a technical pattern rather than an actual event. 

One well-known example is Tesla (TSLA) stock, which has had a history of many short positions. Despite this, the stock has experienced significant surges, leading to many short sellers potentially getting trapped.

Cryptocurrency markets, especially Bitcoin markets, are also susceptible to frequent short squeezes. These markets use high-leverage positions in Bitcoin derivatives, making them vulnerable to being trapped or liquidated with relatively small price fluctuations. As a result, short and long squeezes are common in the Bitcoin realm. To avoid falling victim to these movements, it's crucial to be cautious about the amount of leverage used and to have a comprehensive risk management strategy in place.

An interesting example is the Bitcoin price range in early 2019. After a sharp downward movement, the price consolidated within a range. Market sentiment likely remained pessimistic, with many investors taking short positions and expecting the downtrend to continue.

Conclusion

A short squeeze happens when short sellers get trapped and are forced to close their positions, causing a big increase in price. Short squeezes are more common in markets with a lot of borrowing and trading with borrowed money. When many traders and investors use a lot of borrowed money, it makes price movements more extreme. The forced selling that follows sets off a chain reaction, leading to sharper and more noticeable price swings. It's important to understand the impact of a short squeeze before taking a short position, as not doing so can lead to significant losses.

Short Squeeze
Short Selling
Trading
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