What is a Short Squeeze?

A short happens when a heavily shorted asset suddenly surges and pushing short traders to close their position to avoid a loss. We seen it happen with AMC and GME but how it really work?


  • A short squeeze happens when a shorted crypto suddenly surges and short traders close their position to avoid a loss.
  • A short squeeze usually happens due to unprecedented fundamental factors that cause a sudden change in market sentiment.
  • There are three ways to avoid a short squeeze: set a buy order limit (stop-loss); bet against your guts and look for early tell-tale signs.
  • You can join Coins Pro to anticipate a short squeeze and make a profit from it.
  • If you’re not interested in crypto trading, you can still earn a significant amount of income from crypto.

When a large number of short traders suddenly enter a buy order to cover their borrowed asset, will cause a short squeeze and this can happen with traditional assets like stocks or even alternative assets like cryptocurrencies. When this happens and retail investors like you and I see a buy signal and enter the purchasing frenzy, the market experiences a sudden price spike, which amplifies the loss for short traders.

What triggers a short squeeze?

When an asset that is experiencing a temporary correction gets shorted by too many short traders due to poor market sentiment and other fundamental factors, this sets up for a perfect short squeeze. If there is a sudden change in sentiment or an increase in buying pressure, this will trigger a short squeeze. With the sudden surge in price, short traders will need to make moves quickly to minimize their losses.

Shorting basically means borrowing an asset at a high price and then buying it at a discounted price when the asset is in decline. Therefore, shorting requires a decline in the price of an asset. If the market surges, short traders are forced to buy at a higher price. One way this might happen is through stop-loss triggers. This may also occur when traders sell their holdings voluntarily to prevent further losses. This leads to a surge of buying pressure that drives prices higher.

As prices continue to increase, the asset becomes more appealing to investors. Rising prices caused by new buys and losing short traders can be shocking and unprecedented. This phenomenon is called a “Short Squeeze."

How does a short squeeze happen?

In the market, there are short traders' who open positions when they believe a decline in price is about to happen, this strategy works really well in a bear market because as the price of the token falls, the profit of the trader increases. However, external factors can come into play that will shatter market expectations, such as new developments, inadvertent promotions from celebrities, announcements from the founders, or future adoptions of famous brands.

These factors can drive the prices of the said asset upwards. When this happens, the short sellers will start incurring paper losses, the upsurge in the price might just be temporary but if the prices continue to surge upwards, it will start the snowball of the short seller's losses.

At this point, some brokers may start requesting payment as the losses increase. To avoid further losses, though, short sellers often choose to exit the position quickly, adding more buying pressure to the equation.

Short Squeeze in Crypto

In the cryptocurrency markets, especially Bitcoin, short squeezes are fairly prevalent. High-leverage positions are used in the Bitcoin futures and options markets, where they get trapped even with slight price changes.

Though the Bitcoin markets commonly experience a short squeeze having good risk management strategies like utilizing the right amount of leverage can prevent you from getting stuck in a short squeeze situation.

In 2019, we can see that short traders are anticipating an imminent price decline in Bitcoin after a precipitous drop. The mood on the market was probably fairly pessimistic, with many traders seeking short positions in anticipation of the downtrend's continuance. However, the price found support in a narrow band, which triggered a sharp reversal.

The price quickly broke through the range, and the territory didn't even experience a retest for quite some time. It wasn't until the coronavirus pandemic (or "Black Thursday") that the price range was tested again. The massive number of buy orders from short traders is one of the reasons behind this sudden price surge.

Can you profit from an impending short squeeze?

Speculators and investors who disagree with the current fundamental factors and price movement may decide to purchase the asset that many others are shorting in order to profit from the short squeeze.

Active traders on the other hand will keep an eye on the most heavily shorted cryptocurrencies, waiting for the price rally to start. If the price shows signs of gathering momentum, the trader may decide to buy in anticipation of a possible short squeeze and subsequent large upward price movement.

A sudden increase in the value of cryptocurrencies may seem appealing, but it also comes with major risks as well. The coin could be extensively shorted due to fundamental causes, including a poor market outlook or a cyber attack, which should not be taken lightly.

Risk Management Tactics to Avoid a Short Squeeze Scenario

There are several ways to avoid being trapped in a short-squeeze situation – or at least lessen your losses when the house goes down.

By setting a strategic stop-loss level (in this case, a limit for buy orders) you can minimize your losses if/when a short squeeze happens. For instance, if you're looking to buy a cryptocurrency that’s about to experience a significant drop, you can set a limit to your buy orders of around a certain amount. Depending on your strategies, you have to set a strategic percentage that will allow you to buy the asset once the price hits that level, which prevents further losses.

Otherwise, you can consider hedging your shorts by owning the asset. This strategy can offset your losses in case a price spike happens. An alternative to this is purchasing derivatives to profit from the rising prices.

Signs that a short squeeze is about to happen

Day traders can spot early signs of a short squeeze by weighing in on the overall market pulse, fundamental indicators, and contrarian signals. Leveraging on such knowledge, traders can close a position earlier preventing any losses. In some cases, reading the signs can also help to further take advantage of a real shorting opportunity by re-entering the position once the price starts falling again.

Strong Buying Pressure

For no apparent reason, you may see that the asset has accumulated a massive number of buy orders. When this happens, you might be missing something or a short squeeze is about to happen.

Increased Short Interest

You can gauge the number of outstanding shorted assets by looking at the percentage of the crypto’s “short interest”. This is a useful insight to avoid a short squeeze because anything above 20 percent may signal an impending surge.

Image depicting a crypto short squeeze

Number of Days to Buy Back Shorts

By looking at the trading volume of a highly shorted crypto, you’re able to determine the average number of days to cover the outstanding amount of shorted assets. The short ratio is particularly useful because you can set the limit to ten days before the volume of outstanding shorted assets should be covered. If it exceeds that limit, it might be a good decision to exit as soon as possible.

Visualization of the formula for 'days to recover'

Indicator for Overbought vs. Oversold

Using the RSI indicator (Relative Strength Index), you can measure the prevailing buying pressure in the market. Reading the RSI level of the asset will help you predict the occurrence of a short squeeze. For example, the low RSI is attributed to overselling, which could trigger a price drop. On the other hand, a higher RSI indicates an overbought condition, which is a possible short-squeeze scenario.

Trade with Caution or Earn Passive Income

Cryptocurrency trading and investing come with a lot of risks. While crypto facilitated a massive transfer of wealth, the ones who paid their due diligence benefited the most.

If you want to take advantage of the profits and extra income that crypto can provide,  you can sign up for a Coins Pro account today. You may also consider yield farming, staking, and other methods of generating passive income in crypto.

Disclaimer: The information and publications in this article are not intended to be and do not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice, or any other advice or recommendation offered or endorsed by Coins.

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