MACK: Insiders vs. Shorts

The most recent short interest data was recently released by the NASDAQ for the 02/14/2014 settlement date, and Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc. (MACK) is one of the most shorted stocks of the Russell 3000, based on 15.54 "days to cover" versus the median component at 4.12. There are a number of ways to look at short data, but one metric that we find particularly useful is the "days to cover" because it considers both the total shares short and the average daily volume of shares typically traded. The number of shares short is then divided by the average daily volume, to express the total number of trading days it would take to close out all of the open short positions if every share traded represented a short position being closed.

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In the case of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc. ( MACK), the total short interest at the 02/14/2014 settlement date was 19,725,260 shares, which compares to the average daily trading volume of just 1,269,240 shares, for a "days to cover" ratio of 15.54.

When short sellers eventually cover their positions, by definition there must be buying activity because a share that is currently sold short must be purchased to be covered. At the present levels of short interest, if from this point forward every single MACK share traded represented a short position being closed, then at the average daily volume of 1,269,240 shares it would only be during the 16th trading day that every short position would be closed.

So it would stand to reason that should some unexpectedly good news come out, and short sellers did not have 16 days of patience but instead wanted to cover their short positions very suddenly, that situation could result in sending the stock higher until the higher price produces enough sellers to generate the necessary volume to close out those positions quickly.

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc. ( MACK) has something relatively rare for a stock with this much short interest, that being insiders taking the other side of the trade. Looking back over the trailing six month period, MACK has seen 7 different instances of insider buying, as summarized by the table below:

Purchased Insider Title Shares Price/Share Value
11/29/2013 Michael E. Porter Director 75,000 $3.60 $270,185.00
11/29/2013 William M. McClements SVP of Corporate Operations 7,000 $3.61 $25,255.00
11/27/2013 Gary L. Crocker Director 207,000 $3.72 $769,536.30
11/29/2013 Anthony J. Sinskey Director 3,800 $3.92 $14,877.00
12/03/2013 Michael E. Porter Director 75,000 $4.17 $312,907.50
12/02/2013 William M. McClements SVP of Corporate Operations 2,000 $4.06 $8,119.20
12/03/2013 Sarah E. Nash Director 47,500 $4.17 $198,306.00
12/04/2013 Robert J. Mulroy President and CEO 33,100 $4.42 $146,225.87
12/06/2013 James H. Quigley Director 39,000 $4.70 $183,257.10
12/10/2013 Michael E. Porter Director 18,000 $4.38 $78,840.00
12/12/2013 William M. McClements SVP of Corporate Operations 4,000 $4.26 $17,059.20
12/17/2013 Michael E. Porter Director 25,000 $4.75 $118,811.25

Below is a chart showing the "days to cover" for MACK over time:

Loading+chart++2014+TickerTech.com

And looking at the chart below, MACK's low point in its 52 week range is $2.05 per share, with $7.09 as the 52 week high point — that compares with a last trade of $5.09.

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc. Moving Averages Chart

In recent trading, shares of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc. ( MACK) were changing hands at $5.09/share.

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