(Bloomberg) — Even after Cathie Wood’s largest fund plunged almost 15% in the new year tech rout, traders are betting there’s more pain in store.
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Short interest as a percentage of shares outstanding on the $14.3 billion ARK Innovation exchange-traded fund (ticker ARKK) has jumped to 6.86%, a whisker below its all-time high of 6.89%, according to data from IHS Markit Ltd.
The ETF has already sold off faster than the broader technology sector this year as the Federal Reserve’s hawkish pivot spurs Treasury yields higher.
After becoming the standard bearer for high-risk, high-reward speculative tech in 2020, ARKK has emerged as a popular bearish wager, despite elevated financing costs. The thinking goes that the era of cheap money is no more — hitting the kind of loss-making growth companies with expensive valuations favored by Wood and her firm, ARK Investment Management.
“On one hand, it’s a trade that’s working right now and people like to ride the trend, but on the other it’s risky as even one little dovish comment from the Fed could result in a spike in ARKK shares,” said Eric Balchunas, Bloomberg Intelligence ETF analyst. “It’s almost like shorting ARKK is a bet that the Fed really means it this time.”
ARKK sank another 3.1% on Monday at 1:26 p.m. in New York, on track for a fifth straight day of losses. The ETF finished 2021 roughly 24% lower, after surging nearly 150% in 2020.
The pain has made a winner of the Tuttle Capital Short Innovation ETF (SARK), which tracks the inverse performance of ARKK. That fund has climbed nearly 40% since launching in early November.
The bets are building against ARKK despite it being a relatively expensive fund to short. The financing rate stands at around 5%, according to data compiled by S3 Partners. That compares to just 0.3% for the $204.8 billion Invesco QQQ Trust Series 1 (QQQ), which has fallen by over 6% so far this year.
“It’s no secret that ARKK has had a rough patch of performance, and with such a high-profile manager, it’s inevitable people want to take sides,” said Dave Nadig, chief investment officer of data provider ETF Trends. “Trying to ‘time’ an active manager’s future performance is effectively impossible, but I get the emotional motivation.”
(Updates with latest trading. An earlier version was corrected to show the 150% gain was 2020.)
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