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Alcoa Inc (AA), Intel Corporation (INTC): The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI)’s 5 Most Hated Stocks

What happens when the unstoppable force known as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Indices:.DJI) meets the immovable object known as short-sellers? Thus far, the answer to that question is that the skeptics get run over and knocked out of their shoes.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Indices:.DJI) has been an index to marvel at over the past four years, bouncing from the 6,500’s to greater than 15,000 on the heels of a recovery in the jobs market, the housing market, and ongoing accommodative monetary easing from the Federal Reserve.

Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA)

But as history has shown us on numerous occasions, peaks and troughs are the natural evolution of the economic cycle. Skepticism is certainly warranted given our fresh all-time highs and a worrisome lack of substantive growth in Europe and China. With that in mind, I propose we again take a look at the Dow’s five most hated companies (essentially those with the highest short interest) and determine why they are universally disliked and ultimately decipher whether this pessimism is fully warranted.

Company Short Interest As a % of Shares Outstanding
Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA) 8.72%
Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) 4.62%
Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) 3.26%
Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) 3.08%
E I Du Pont De Nemours And Co (NYSE:DD) 2.81%

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Why are investors shorting Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA)?

Yet again, aluminum maker Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA) tops the list of the Dow’s most short-sold companies by quite a bit. The case against Alcoa is pretty simple: aluminum prices are down in the dumps and oversupply issues are still problematic meaning Alcoa has little choice but to accept weak prices and continue to sell its products at lower margins, or to idle some of its capacity in the hope that a reduction in supply helps improve its pricing power. For Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA), it’s taken to reducing capacity and crossing its fingers that ongoing infrastructure growth in China and a rebounding U.S. economy helps boost demand.

Is this short interest warranted?

I’d certainly say that short-sellers have every reason to be skeptical of Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA), and they’ve been perfectly justified in their doubts with the stock hitting a fresh multi-year low last week. It’s going to take a few quarters before Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA)’s reduced production begins to affect its pricing power and boosts its bottom line, but it will ultimately be a long-term positive for aluminum pricing. As such, I actually have Alcoa on my Watchlist as a potential buy candidate for my personal portfolio. While I don’t expect a miraculous overnight turnaround, I see shares worth double where they’re at within three-to-five years.

Source: Intel Free Press, Flickr.

Why are investors shorting Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC)?

The faster-than-expected demise of the personal computer is practically the entire reason why short-sellers have dog piled into Intel. As the overwhelming leader in microprocessors for PC’s — boasting a market share of 85.2% in the first quarter — Intel has the biggest cliff to contend with if PC sales continue to dip by double digits. Instead, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) is being forced to spend even more on R&D to align itself to succeed in a cloud-computing based world. These higher expenses are likely to constrain its profits over the next couple of quarters, if not longer.

Is this short interest warranted?

If you can look beyond 2013, then I feel Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) is an incredibly sound investment that short-sellers would be smart to shy away from. Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) has a real opportunity to become the dominant hardware player in cloud-computing via servers and big data centers. Intel is also playing its hand as the processor of choice in tablets and smartphones, although it’s had only minimal success so far in these areas. Even though PCs are slowing, its dominance of the microprocessor market delivers predictable cash flow and a rapidly growing dividend that made Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) a perfect selection for my Basic Needs Portfolio. To make a long story short, no, this short interest isn’t warranted!

Why are investors shorting Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT)?

If there’s any company within the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Indices:.DJI)’ 30 components that should see it short interest rising, it’s Caterpillar. The maker of heavy duty construction equipment lowered its annual profit forecast in April as mining companies slowed production and halted expansion/drilling plans in the wake of weak metals prices. What’s more, since April the metals market has gotten even worse. Gold prices are off about 20% and the prospect of additional mine shutdowns or production cuts is likely. Although Caterpillar doesn’t derive all of its revenue from mining companies, it’s a big enough chunk that another forecast cut could be on the way.

Is this short interest warranted?

I believe this question is best answered based on your investing timeframe. Short-sellers are often out there looking for a quick buck, and with a beta of nearly two, it means Caterpillar is almost twice as volatile as the S&P 500, giving these skeptics the volatility they’re looking for. This means that as Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) tweaks its forecast over the near-term, short-sellers are very likely to gain the upper hand. Beyond 2015, though, it looks as if emerging market demand has the potential to outweigh any weakness China, Europe, or the U.S. could have to offer, and would make Caterpillar an intriguing play yet again.

Source: e-Magine Art, Flickr.

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