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Short Sellers Exit Social Media Stocks

Douglas A. McIntyre

After weeks of sell-offs, social media shares have started to recover. Another sign they are back in favor -- their short interests for the period that ended May 30. Short sellers decreased their positions throughout most of the sector.

Shares sold short in Facebook Inc. (FB) dropped 3.4% to 44.6 million. After selling off sharply in March, the stock has regained most of its losses and trades at $64, still below its 52-week high of $72.59.

Troubled online game company Zynga Inc. (ZNGA) has been beat up by investors, almost since it went public. However, the short interest in the stock fell 7.6% to 58.5 million. More than 8% of its float is still short. Zynga's shares are down more than 43% in the past three months, but they have recently started to recover. Shares now trade at $3.20, well below their 52-week high of $5.89.

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Shares sold short in LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD) dropped 3.4% to 3.9 million. The company has been well-regarded among the social networks because it has multiple lines of sales, which presumably make its revenue more stable. That has not helped it in the market over the past three months. Shares have fallen 19% and have only begun to bounce higher. LinkedIn shares trade at $163, well shy of their 52-week high of $257.56.

Finally, shares sold short in Twitter (TWTR) dove 36.5% to 26 million.

All four companies will find it difficult to hold their current share prices if they disappoint, even slightly, when announcing second-quarter earnings. Each has an extraordinarily high valuation. Much of Wall Street believes that their revenue growth cannot maintain the current pace, to some extend because social media use may have begun a period of saturation. And profits have been hard to come by, at least at margins that would justify ongoing increases in share prices. Put another way, the worst thing that could happen to these companies is for Wall Street to believe that their best years are behind them.

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