BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- It's been tough times lately for the euro. Since late November, the official currency of the European Union has fallen more than 18% as debt fears grew over the PIIGS countries -- and Greece in particular. And now, despite a sweeping bailout package designed to reign in the contagion, euro fears continue to weigh on equities on a daily basis. But while some traders pile the short interest on a handful of companies, some attractive short-squeeze opportunities could be forming this month in European stocks.
A short squeeze is the buying frenzy that ensues when a heavily shorted stock starts to look attractive again to investors, causing short-sellers to cover their positions -- and share price to skyrocket. One of the best indicators of just how high a short-squeezed stock could go is the short interest ratio, which divides shares short by average daily trading volume in order to get a ballpark estimate of the number of days it would take for short-sellers to cover their positions. The higher the short ratio, the higher the potential profits when the shorts get squeezed.
For many European stocks, it makes sense to see massive equity devaluation at the hands of a sliding euro. After all, for companies whose entire business is euro-denominated, the euro slide is tantamount to a double-digit reduction in cash holdings and sales numbers. But not all EU stocks are in the same boat. Companies with significant business overseas are actually being affected less severely than their EU-only peers.
And in many cases, those companies have been oversold by the shorts.
Here's a look at
has been getting pressured on two fronts. Not only has the euro slide been holding shares down, but the company has also seen its shares affected by an overall selloff in oil stocks. Both of those concerns may be overblown, however, resulting in a short interest ratio of 14, which suggests that it would take nearly three weeks for short-sellers to wind out their positions at current volume levels.
While Amsterdam is Core Labs' official HQ, the company maintains a strong presence at its Houston office. That's because the U.S. accounted for a full 48% of the company's 2009 revenues. And other non-EU regions made up another 27%, leaving only a quarter of business in Europe. That means that only a tiny portion of incoming cash is affected by euro moves, and the majority flows into Core's coffers in dollars. Likewise, the company's focus on reservoir optimization -- an absolute necessity for oil operators -- is largely resistant to industry headwinds right now. Ultimately, a number of factors could buoy Core's share price, but it'll most likely be its next earnings release later this summer.
One of Core Lab' biggest institutional owners is the
(BGRFX), a $6.1 billion growth fund that also owns shares of
( JCG) and
in its portfolio.
is another Netherlands-based company that stands to shake off the shorts with its diversified balance sheet. The company, which provides printing and promotional services for the small business market, has dropped 19% year to date as its short interest ratio climbed to 9.4. But the company's presence at a number of investing conferences could help increase awareness over its under reliance on the euro.
With close to 61% of sales coming from the U.S. and more than half of the company's hard assets and production facilities stateside, its exposure to the euro is significantly less than many investors realize. Likewise, Vistaprint should see improvement in sales numbers this year as small businesses start to spend again following the recession.
One fund that hopes that will be the case is the
(JAVTX), which counts Vistaprint as one of its top five holdings. Other positions include
Few industries are as globally diversified as big pharma. But that hasn't stopped
from gaining a short interest ratio of 11.16 courtesy of its exposure to the European continent. Earnings in July could be the catalyst that moves shares of this drug developer higher.
To be sure, AstraZeneca's exposure to the euro is minimal - the company was formed in 1999, the result of a merger between Swiss Astra and the U.K.'s Zeneca, two countries that have opted to keep their national currencies. But its extensive sales in the Eurozone are threatening enough to warrant downward pressure on sales.
Still, like most other big pharma players, the company's exposure to the euro should be short-lived given price flexibility and thick margins in its pipeline drugs. Instead, the big risk for AstraZeneca is a slew of expiring patents that need to be replaced by new pipeline drugs. In the immediate term, AstraZeneca should continue to perform strongly.
AstraZeneca is held by
(FPHAX), whose portfolio also includes
Johnson & Johnson
For the rest of this week's short-squeeze opportunities, including
( TBSI), check out the
And to find short-squeeze plays of your own, be sure to check out the
community for insights and investment ideas.
-- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.
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Jonas Elmerraji is the editor and portfolio manager of the
Rhino Stock Report
, a free investment advisory that returned 15% in 2008. He is a contributor to numerous financial outlets, including
, and has been featured in
Investor's Business Daily