Stocks to buy

Although the concept of gambling on short-squeeze stocks present risks, certain market ideas drive hedge funds crazy. By this statement, I’m referring to companies that speculators believe in their hearts should tumble for various reasons. Nevertheless, they keep attracting speculators on the other side of the trade, hoping for quick profits of their own.

On this list, I’m even going to mention one company that arguably should fail as a matter of moral principle. And yet, seemingly amoral traders continue to bid up short-squeeze stocks that should have no business attracting public capital. Undoubtedly, these enterprises represent some of the most frustrating market ideas out there.

BIG Big Lots $10.44
UPST Upstart $15.40
DDS Dillard’s $299.84
NVAX Novavax $9.16
WRBY Warby Parker $11.09
ARAV Aravive $1.68
GEO Geo Group $8.17

Big Lots (BIG)

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An American furniture and home décor retailer, Big Lots (NYSE:BIG) has long represented a major component of the retail landscape. Unfortunately, the dramatic ebb and flow of the Covid-19 crisis saw shares skyrocket in 2021 before tumbling badly. Since the Jan. opener, BIG fell 26%. And in the trailing one-year period, it’s down over 70%.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that BIG symbolizes one of the short-squeeze stocks. According to data from Benzinga, BIG’s short interest is 56.43% of its float. Also, its short interest ratio is 6.7 days to cover. Also, Gurufocus warns investors that Big Lots may be a value trap. With a subterranean cash-to-debt ratio, circumstances don’t look great for the retailer.

Still, contrarians keep bidding it up. For instance, in the past five sessions, BIG’s actually in the green to the tune of 2.2%. That’s frustrating for bears who would rather see share tumble straight down. Not only that, Wall Street analysts peg BIG as a consensus moderate sell. Still, it keeps ticking.

Upstart (UPST)

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An artificial intelligence-based lending platform, Upstart (NASDAQ:UPST) partners with banks and credit unions to provide consumer loans using non-traditional variables. These include education and employment to predict creditworthiness. Although a relevant and intriguing idea, UPST failed to attract investors. Over the past 365 days, UPST fell nearly 81%.

Therefore, it’s no shocker that Upstart attracts the wrong kind of attention. Per Benzinga, UPST’s short interest stands at 40.84% while its short interest ratio is 4.3 days to cover. Financially, Upstart’s numbers look ugly. For example, its three-year sales growth rate fell to 3.8% below breakeven. Its net margin is 13% below zero.

Still, contrarians bid UPST up, which frustrates those looking for quick, consistent scores with short-squeeze stocks. As evidence, since the January opener, UPST gained over 22%. Conspicuously, Wall Street analysts peg UPST as a consensus moderate sell. Their average price target sits at $14.61, implying over 7% downside risk.

Dillard’s (DDS)

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With the consumer economy struggling with stubbornly high inflation and accelerating mass layoffs, it’s no surprise that several discretionary retailers make up the ranks of short-squeeze stocks. And that goes for Dillard’s (NYSE:DDS), a popular department store. On paper, the bears should have an easy time extracting “negative” profits from the upscale department store chain.

Per Benzinga, DDS’ short interest pings at 37.12%. Also, its short interest ratio comes out to a rather lofty 9.4 days. However, Dillard’s shares have been resilient. Yes, they’re down almost 7% since the January opener. But they’re up slightly above parity in the trailing year. In the past five years, DDS gained nearly 310%.

Financially, Dillard’s enjoys a strong cash-to-debt ratio of 1.44. Also, it touts a three-year revenue growth rate of 16.8% and a trailing-year net margin of 12.74%. Both stats rank well into the underlying sector’s upper echelon. Adding to the frustration, analysts peg DDS as a consensus moderate sell. There, Dillard’s is one of the short-squeeze stocks to be careful with.

Novavax (NVAX)

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While betting on or against short-squeeze stocks always presents high risks, some ideas sell themselves. Arguably, that’s the case for biopharmaceutical firm Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX). Skyrocketing to fame during the Covid-19 circus after years of struggling for positive momentum, NVAX once appeared as smart speculation. Not anymore. As fears of the SARS-CoV-2 virus fade out, Novavax lost tremendous relevance.

Indeed, the chart performance – a loss of nearly 84% in the past one-year period – says everything. Logically, Benzinga points out that NVAX’s short interest hit 38.69%. Moreover, its short interest ratio came out to 5.2 days to cover.

Conspicuously, Gurufocus labeled Novavax as a possible value trap. Because of its three-year revenue growth rate of 219.9%, NVAX appears ridiculously undervalued relative to sales. Here’s the thing, though: that sales metric won’t stand a snowball’s chance in [that warm place].

Still, contrarians bid up NVAX stock like crazy, thus equally driving the bears nuts. In the trailing month, NVAX gained nearly 52% of equity value. That’s wild although you’ve got to figure the bears will eventually win.

Warby Parker (WRBY)

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On the surface, Warby Parker (NYSE:WRBY) owns an enticing enterprise. An online retailer of prescription glasses, contact lenses and sunglasses, Warby brings fashionable eyewear at an affordable price. Also, it features physical locations in select areas. Unfortunately, WRBY failed to resonate with investors. Since making its public market debut in 2021, shares stumbled more than 79%.

Unsurprisingly given this context, WRBY’s short interest pings at 41.12%, a lofty figure. Also, its short interest ratio is 8.3 days to cover, which is also rather elevated. Financially, I must say Warby appears a mess. For example, its Altman Z-Score sits at 2.14, which straddles the distress zone. Even worse, its three-year revenue growth rate is 46.1% below breakeven.

Of course, its profit margins (outside of gross margin) sit in negative territory, averaging more than 18% below zero. Frankly, the business doesn’t seem very sustainable. Still, it manages to keep popping higher. In the past month, WRBY gained over 6%, frustrating bears looking for an easy play among short-squeeze stocks.

Aravive (ARAV)

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Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Aravive (NASDAQ:ARAV) is a biotech firm developing transformative targeted cancer therapeutics. Although Aravive garners public support for its pursuit of addressing a terrible disease, it failed to impress investors. In the past five years, ARAV gave up over 81% of equity value. Honestly, it’s feast-or-famine in the speculative biotech arena.

Also, having a diminutive market capitalization of $103.5 million doesn’t help with confidence. Therefore, cynical bears saw ARAV as one of the short-squeeze stocks. Right now, Benzinga notes that ARAV’s short interest pings at 41.73%. Also, its short interest ratio comes out to 7.5 days to cover.

Financially, Aravive seems incredibly risky. Conspicuously, its Altman Z-Score sits at 15.86 below parity, indicating deep distress. As well, long-term revenue and profitability trends also fell below zero.

Still, the bulls love ARAV, frustrating the shorts. Since the January opener, shares gained over 34%. Compounding matters is that Aravive enjoys a unanimous strong buy rating from analysts.

Geo Group (GEO)

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A publicly traded corporation that invests in private prisons and mental health facilities, Geo Group (NYSE:GEO) easily attracts controversy. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, many understandably had moral qualms about profiteering off others’ misery. However, the events of the pandemic brought to light social and racial inequities that plague our justice system.

So, the hedge funds and other professional short traders probably sat around and figured: if there’s one example of short-squeeze stocks where contrarian opposition would be minimal, it’s got to be GEO. Unsurprisingly, GEO’s short interest hit 36.78% while its short interest ratio pinged at 9.5 days to cover.

Nevertheless, the bulls have frustrated the shorts even with this morally objectionable enterprise. Plus, what really gets on the bears’ nerve is Geo’s financials. Featuring a sub-par balance sheet and negative sales, GEO appears wildly risky. Still, it gets love from contrarian optimists. In the trailing year, GEO gained almost 21%. Even Noble Financial’s Joe Gomes sees GEO hitting $15, implying nearly 84% upside potential. Wild.

On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.

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