IntercontinentalExchange

Eyes are on IntercontinentalExchange ( ICE) in 2013, as the firm gets closer to closing its acquisition of NYSE Euronext ( NYX), expected to happen this fall. And merger arbitrageurs are taking full advantage of any crumbs left in the deal, contributing to ICE's short interest ratio of 22.6 right now. Ultimately, it doesn't matter why a stock is being heavily shorted, only that it is.

So the fact that it would take shorts in ICE a month to exit their bets at current volume levels makes this a short squeeze candidate even if no one really hates the stock.

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IntercontinentalExchange operates the world's biggest exchanges for niche OTC derivatives, helping to match buyers and sellers of more specialized securities. The firm's clearing business is a very attractive complement to its exchange and OTC trading arm -- it essentially lets ICE fill a role that a third-party would otherwise get a piece of anywhere else. Energy and agriculture are core markets for IntercontinentalExchange. The firm's products are critical for commercial hedgers, and as a result, ICE can command bigger benefits than it would be able to grab if it dealt with more competitive instruments.

The NYX acquisition is going to be transformational for ICE -- it'll give it exposure to more mainstream securities for starters, and it'll let ICE leverage some of the most storied brands in the financial sector. While the deal will lever up ICE's balance sheet as well, it should be immediately accretive to income once one-time merger charges run their course.

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