"Short positions currently make up an impossible 140% of GameStop’s float, which is the result of a flaw in how short interest is calculated, a flaw that’s getting greatly magnified in the case of GameStop, according to Dusaniwsky."

Where is the additional 40% coming from?

Outstanding - restricted = float = max can borrow [Am I misunderstanding something here?]


So I got some validation from someone credible, I want to give special thanks to Dan Caplinger, the writer of Yes, a Stock Can Have Short Interest Over 100% -- Here's How

The following is the email conversation:

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During my research I also learnt that there are ways to prevent your long positions from being borrowed 1) you do not agree to it when signing up with the brokers 2) set up impossible GTC orders (but you should still confirm these conditions with your actual brokers)

  • 6
    I have never understood how the short interest could exceed 100% because I always thought that a share could only be loaned out once. The only reason that I could come up with is that they can be loaned multiple times and that seems illogical. Regardless of what the answer is to that, thanks for the link to the article. Dusaniwsky makes an illuminating point that the synthetic longs need to be factored into the calculation. Jan 28, 2021 at 4:41
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    The point is probably that the actual owners do not lend away their shares, this is done by the brokers actually storing the shares (well virtually). So every share sold short ends up somewhere and the new broker might be lending this out again, ending up in more than 100%
    – Manziel
    Jan 28, 2021 at 8:12
  • 1
    I find really interesting that they say "flawed" referring to how short interest is calculated, meaning they think the short interest denominator should include all of the shorted shares (so ShortInterest = (Shorts/(True Longs+Shorts)), which seems... not right). It's correct only insofar as it shows how many shares could, theoretically, be shorted in a single transaction right now - but otherwise it seems like a silly metric.
    – Joe
    Jan 28, 2021 at 19:57
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    @BobBaerker but that idea is not really unusual at all in finance, an underpinning of modern banking is the concept of turning 1 dollar into many through fractional banking.
    – eps
    Jan 29, 2021 at 4:10
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    @eps 9 - It's not a question of whether this is an accepted idea in modern banking but whether this is acceptable practice as allowed by the SEC. Jan 29, 2021 at 13:33

2 Answers 2


TomTom is right, for the most part, that the float does not include everything outstanding.

However, in the case of GameStop, that doesn't explain all of it. As you can see from this Morningstar article, on 12/31/2020, Gamestop's total Shares Outstanding (not the float) was 69.75m shares, but there were 71.2m shares sold short at that point (the Float at that point was much lower, 27.3m).

As this Motley Fool article explains, the same share can be sold more than once, if the "buyer" of the short-sold share then lends that share out for shorting:

As an example, take a situation involving four investors. Annie owns shares of GameStop, and Annie and her broker have an agreement that allows the broker to lend Annie's shares to short-sellers. It lends them to Bob, who subsequently sells those borrowed shares short in hopes that GameStop's share price will fall.

An investor named Chris ends up buying those borrowed shares from Bob. However, Chris has no way of knowing that those shares have been borrowed from Annie. To Chris, they're just like any other shares.

More importantly, if Chris has the same kind of agreement, then Chris's broker can lend out those shares to yet another investor. Diane, another GameStop bear, can borrow those shares and sell them short.

In this example, the same shares end up getting borrowed and sold twice. The short interest volume these transactions add to the total is twice the number of shares actually involved. You can therefore see that if this happened throughout the market, total short interest would eventually exceed the number of shares outstanding and approach 200%.

  • 3
    I mentioned this Motley Fool article in another chain. As I stated there, I wouldn't assume that the MF is a factual and reliable source all of the time. Jan 28, 2021 at 20:06
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    I've long said here that the numbers don't make sense nor do the explanations here and on the net vary. I don't know the answer and I surmise that the correct answer will only come from a trading desk or maybe either FINRA or the SEC. Jan 28, 2021 at 20:34
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    I'm going to take a pass on what the real stats are. Yesterday someone posted a question about Yahoo's %short calculations. They were screwy and didn't come anywhere near those at Zacks or Marketbeat which also disagreed. Jan 28, 2021 at 21:44
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    This shows that naked short selling is not required to get short interest over 100% of float.
    – Jonah
    Jan 29, 2021 at 17:35
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    I think the best example of this is the dollar. There's way more dollar-denominated debt than there are dollars in circulation. If viewed as a security, it's "short interest" (total debt) is over 1000% of "float" (M1) (a very rough approximation, could be way more than that)
    – Jonah
    Jan 29, 2021 at 17:44

The float is the amount of shares that are not in stable long term hands (investment funds, board members etc.) and "float" on the exchange.

As you can borrow shares from institutions that hold them long term (i.e. are not in the float) it is possible for the shorts to exceed the float.

  • 8
    Want to be even funnier? When Porsche tried to take over they had purchase rights (thanks to options) to more than 100% of the shares they did not own. Not the float - OUTSTANDING shares. THAT was a short covering rally ;) Sadly they then did not get the credit to take over Volkswagen and VW turned around and bought Porsche.
    – TomTom
    Jan 28, 2021 at 14:53
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    Not sure about that, but again, there are plenty of stocks that are not on the exchanges and locked but can be borrowed.
    – TomTom
    Jan 28, 2021 at 15:23
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    Indeed, as this question/answer explains, it's also possible to have more shorts than shares outstanding (float or not).
    – Joe
    Jan 28, 2021 at 18:55
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    @Joshua Technically no. It means someone sold a right to purchase on something they did not have - so if the call they sold is called in, they have to buy on the market. NOTHING says you must own the asset to sell an option - and in extreme cases.... BOOOOM.
    – TomTom
    Jan 28, 2021 at 19:19
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    But a call is not selling what is not his - it is selling someone the right to get something from you ta a specified price. You have to get it - when called - you do NOT have to have it. I know, details are hard - that is why some people make money, some whine. But Details matter. You can sell options without having the underlying.
    – TomTom
    Jan 28, 2021 at 20:30

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