Moderna’s stock rally costs short sellers $1.5bn in 2020

The stock price could rise higher as the company starts a final-stage study of the vaccine this month

FILE PHOTO: A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Inc, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., May 18, 2020.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo
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Those betting against high-flying vaccine developer Moderna have taken their lumps this year with the biotech’s 370 per cent rally costing short sellers almost $1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn), according to financial analytics firm S3 Partners.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech has boomed into a $36bn behemoth amid excitement for its vaccine to treat the novel coronavirus. Still, even with the stock’s parabolic move this week, it’s primed for a squeeze with short investor losses potentially outweighing overbought price conviction, S3 Partners managing director Ihor Dusaniwsky said in a note.

Moderna surged 6.9 per cent to a record on Wednesday after early results from its Covid-19 vaccine candidate drew Wall Street praise. With the company set to start a final-stage study of the vaccine this month, excitement for the company and nerves for short sellers could push the stock even higher.

“There is $2.4bn of buy-to-cover dry powder in this stock, once shorts begin to cover in size the buying pressure will jolt the stock price suddenly higher,” Mr Dusaniwsky wrote Friday. Roughly 10 per cent of Moderna shares available for trading are currently sold short, according to data compiled by S3 Partners.

The biotech’s 13 per cent rally Friday, alongside peers, fueled it to a new record ahead of detailed results from a trial of AstraZeneca and University of Oxford’s vaccine that are expected Monday. Moderna’s current five-day winning streak which has seen the stock jump by more than 50 per cent is its best such move since April.