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Short bets have dropped substantially since GameStop phenomenon

Short positions in U.S. equities have declined significantly since "meme stocks" like GameStop exploded higher earlier this year, S&P Global Market Intelligence data show.

By the numbers: At the end of January, the percentage of outstanding shares of S&P 500 companies held by short sellers averaged 3.1%, down from 4.1% a year ago.


  • Short interest in the most shorted of the S&P 500's 11 sectors in 2020, consumer discretionary, fell to 4.7% at the end of January, down from 5.4% in the middle of the month and from 6.7% at the end of January 2020.

What they're saying: "I think a lot of hedge funds are stepping back until the retail euphoria calms down," Pauline Bell, an equity analyst at CFRA Research, told S&P Global Market Intelligence.

  • "Hedge funds are on the lookout. They don't want to get burned."

Yes, but: The number of short positions investors are taking is in decline, but the amount of money investors are putting in short interest positions appears to be increasing, according to an analysis by Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director at S3 Partners.

  • Short interest in the Russell 3000 index as a percentage of the float fell from 7.2% as of Dec. 29, 2020, to 5.8% as of Feb. 16, 2021, but the amount of money in short interest positions rose by about 4.1% over the same timeframe, Dusaniwsky's analysis found.

How it works: "If an observer was just looking at the number of chips you are betting they would surmise that you were reducing your bets, but an observer looking at the dollar value of your bets would understand that the size of your bet was increasing," Dusaniwsky said.

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.

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Chamber of Commerce decides against widespread political ban following Capitol insurrection

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealed Friday it won't withhold political donations from lawmakers who simply voted against certifying the presidential election results and instead decide on a case-by-case basis.

Why it matters: The Chamber is the marquee entity representing businesses and their interests in Washington. Its memo, obtained exclusively by Axios, could set the tone for businesses debating how to handle their candidate and PAC spending following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

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Scoop: CDC lets child migrant shelters fill to 100% despite COVID concern

The Centers for Disease Control is allowing shelters handling child migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border to expand to full capacity, abandoning a requirement they stay near 50% to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The fact the country's premier health advisory agency is permitting a change in COVID-19 protocols indicates the scale of the immigration crisis. A draft memo obtained by Axios conceded "facilities should plan for and expect to have COVID-19 cases."

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8 Senate Democrats vote against adding $15 minimum wage amendment to COVID relief

Eight Democratic senators on Friday voted against Sen. Bernie Sanders' amendment to ignore a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian and add a $15 minimum wage provision to the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

The state of play: The vote was held open for hours on Friday afternoon — even after every senator had voted — due to a standoff in negotiations over the next amendments that the Senate is set to take up.

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CDC: Easing mask mandates, re-opening restaurants led to higher COVID cases, deaths

Easing mask restrictions and on-site dining have increased COVID-19 cases and deaths, according to a study out Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The report's findings converge with actions from governors this week easing mask mandates and announcing plans to reopen nonessential businesses like restaurants.

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Exclusive: GOP Leader McCarthy asks to meet with Biden about the border

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has requested a meeting with President Biden to discuss the rising numbers of unaccompanied migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, in a letter sent on Friday.

Why it matters: Biden is facing criticism from the right and the left as agency actions and media reports reveal spiking numbers of migrant children overwhelming parts of the U.S. immigration system. Recent data shows an average of 321 kids being referred to migrant shelters each day, as Axios reported.

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Public desire for vaccine increases to 69%, but with partisan divide

69% of the public intends to get a COVID vaccine or already has, up significantly from 60% in November, according to a report out Friday from the Pew Research Center.

Yes, but: The issue has become even more partisan, with 56% of Republicans who say they want or have already received a coronavirus vaccine compared to 83% of Democrats.

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China's highly anticipated 5-year plan is hazy on climate

China's highly anticipated 5-year plan revealed on Friday provides little new information about its climate initiatives, leaving plenty to discuss in multinational meetings this year and lots of blanks for China to fill in later.

Driving the news: The top-line targets for 2025, per state media, aim to lower energy intensity by 13.5% and carbon emissions intensity by 18% — that is, measures of energy use and emissions relative to economic output.

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